Semester 1 summary, Jun 2012

Although I initially wanted to focus on spiritual avenues in my work, the course of my intended exploration changed during the first residency. I came back with lists of suggested books, directions and possibilities, but it was clear to me that I needed to address gender issues in the art historical context. My self-portraits had inspired dubious reactions that had more to do with the inherited language of the representation of women, than any motives behind the work I discussed. I had been aware of certain associations that my work could inspire, but was not prepared for the core ideas to be drowned by the visuals, to the extent that they were.

The other issue was the jarring fit of “spirituality” in the Postmodernist context. Although I received encouragement from some faculty, namely Laurel Sparks and Tony Apesos, to pursue it, the notion of “the universal” contradicts Postmodernism’s general philosophy of its absurdity. I would like to return to this topic, however, in Semester 2 and explore its complicated relationship to the meaning it imbues (or skews) our lives with, and more specifically, its relationship with our art. Some of the literature I have already lined up for myself is: ‘Symbolist Aesthetics and Early Abstract Art: Sites of Imaginary Space’ by Dee Reynolds, ‘Jung: A Feminist Revision’ by Susan Rowland, ‘The Reenchantment of Art’ and ‘Living the Magical Life: An Oracular’ by Suzi Gablik, as well as, ‘The Sublime’ by Simon Morley.

At the end of the first residency, my original plan of action was to finish my 10-15 minute film, build at least one (figurative) sculpture and try to experiment with combining the two in an installation. I spent some time working on editing and layering footage of my film in preparation for my first meeting with my mentor Roberto Lopardo. He took one look at the brief film sequence I showed him, interpreted one of my characters
(Persephone) as a girl in a “nightie” and warned me about perpetuating female stereotypes on screen. I have put my film on hold for a while, as despite having read writings by Mulvey, as my advisor Sunanda suggested, and ‘Jung: A Feminist Review’ by Susan Rowland, I still feel that I need to delve deeper, muse and concoct ideas into a brew that works.

My mentor also drew my attention to the aesthetic preoccupations in my work. He challenged me to take real risks and stop attempting work that was “perfect”. He had reservations about its spiritual associations, and likened the Mandalas to digital and psychedelic art. He suggested that I rip my paintings up and stitch the canvas together, perhaps adding hair, nails, beeswax and varnish to create a “fetishistic Frankenstein”. He wanted me to explore layering in greater depth, since it was an important element in my art.

I went about this in many ways. My core influences were Louise Bourgeois and Marlene Dumas. The latter’s physical layering of her work (as well as its meaning) with techniques such as scratching, tearing, staining and working on both sides of the paper/canvas, have replenished my own working methods. I am currently exploring some of these in my “Mandala” series by sandwiching stained canvases and revealing parts
by scratching and tearing them. My mentor’s comment was that the scratching and distressing used in my work seems contrived and needs to look more “natural”. I am still not entirely happy with the results and must keep experimenting.

Louise Bourgeois’ hard/soft and lumpy/cavernous surfaces, and her use of latex in particular, are options that I am investigating in my “Bucket” series as I intend to create fertile ground for the “murkiest waters of the psyche” (Storr, 2001). This ties in with previous thoughts on expressing Jung’s “collective unconscious’’ in my work and has led me to new avenues of exploration. My project basically involved exploring this idea
first by painting on canvas and creating “fabrics” that had numerous layers of paint. I intended to hook the mind on the richness of those layers hoping that in some ways, like inkblots, they would entice associations. These “fabrics” were then wrapped around a bucket in order to, again, invoke the idea of a pool or soup of psychic “stuff”. I also wanted to fill the bucket with water and have things (like hair), floating on it. Another possible idea, was to film the bucket filled with water (another evocative layer), and impose some of my film footage on top. Roberto said: “think of them as vessels carrying the substance which you are trying to talk about… What do the six videos look like as the six buckets? What kind of vessels would six archetypes be?”. I am still fleshing out these ideas.

Although my mentor did not see the completed product, his criticism of one of the “buckets” was that the many colours were becoming too decorative and obstructive. Again, I have been made aware of how much I enjoy the formal elements of art. To quote Roberto: “One feels a sense of legitimacy by repeating the act of cliché” and in some ways I am not entirely sure that I don’t enjoy flirting with the notion of “kitsch”.
(I am aware that my work can have dramatic and camp connotations and am not sure how I feel about it). When layering, one of the tools I used to draw was a knife and Roberto again pointed out that my mark-making was decorative. I have since experimented by toning things down and continue to explore a variety of “fabrics”.

Roberto thought my “skin fabrics” were more successful and suggested only slight colour variations and to focus on the viscosity of colour. “Let them [vessels] breathe as individual objects. It still allows you to cut and stitch but do so quietly. [For skin fabric] use pink or white stitching that we can barely see and it will more powerfully evocative”. I am currently still experimenting with a hand-made bucket, as opposed to an industrially produced bucket, at the suggestion of my mentor, but haven’t necessarily
got anywhere with it. I will continue working on the “human” bucket which may end up being part “cat” bucket. We’ll see.

Roberto and I discussed the concept of layers in great depth. He was concerned that I research the physical, emotional and psychological aspects of layering thoroughly. “Veiling the Veiled Woman series” was my response to his suggestion that I deconstruct and rip up my self-portraits and find ways to collage them back together. The result of my experiments has been visually quite interesting to me. Some images
are distinctly Surrealist in feel as strange hybrid creatures have emerged from the wreckage. I am still trying out the addition of other elements to the mix, like hair and stitching. I am layering orifices and eyes, openings and Mandalas, so in some sense they have become portraits of portals. A glimpse of a direction may be surfacing and I’m interested to investigate it further.

Roberto has commented that: “Your work is dark, psychological, emotional, not pretty and pristine… you may have trouble showcasing these [works], especially in Dubai “. In many ways I feel that I have accomplished the task that I set myself this semester, which was to really push my boundaries. I do not feel, by any means, that I have completed a body of work in any way, and therefore do not want to exhibit it. What I have are really interesting experiments and beginnings that will hopefully
lead to something a bit more “refined” further on. I am already looking forward to my summer holiday, where I will have around a month and a half to develop these beginnings more extensively. I am pleased that I have embarked on 3-D work (although completely different to what I had first visualized) and may progress to make tall, human size, “buckets” or “vessels”. I have not given up on my film, which needs more work and still look forward to perhaps setting up installations in the future.

Besides the challenges that my artwork has presented, I have been immersed in reading, which was perhaps the most provocative part of my education this semester. The main topics examined were Postmodernism, Feminism, Women in Surrealism and the work of Dumas and Bourgeois.


Carol Duncan, ‘Virility and Domination in Early 20th century Vanguard Painting’, The Aesthetics of Power. Cambridge University Press, 1993, pp. 81-109.

Griselda Pollock, ‘Modernity and the spaces of femininity’, Vision and Difference: femininity, feminism and the history of art, London and New York: Routledge, 1988, pp.50-90.

Van den Boogerd D., Bloom B., Casadio M., ‘Marlene Dumas’, Phaidon Press Ltd, 2001.

Storr R., Herkenhoff P., Shwartzman A., ‘Louise Bourgeois’, Phaidon Press Ltd, 2004.

Deepwell K., ‘Women Artists and Modernism’, Manchester University Press, 1998.

Grosenick U., ‘Women artists: in the 20th and 21st Century’, Taschen, 2003.

Reckitt H., ‘Art and Feminism’, Phaidon Press Ltd, 2004.

Chadwick W., ‘Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement’, Thames and Hudson, London, 1997.


The Debutante 1994, Ric Warren, California, online video, accessed 30 April 2012,

Sphinx (The Art of Leonor Fini), Shivabel, online video, accessed 2 May 2012, http://

Lee Miller (parts 1 – 6), online video, accessed 6 May 2012, 8kBA81VL7wM (no other information available)

TateShots: Laibach, Monumental Retro-Avant-Garde, Uk, online video, accessed 3 May,, Louise Bourgeois – Spiderwoman, Marlene Dumas: Measuring Your Own Grave, on view at MOMA, Interview Marlene Dumas, Anri Sala, April 4, 2012, Judy Chicago on Feminist Art, May 13, 2012, Sublime Environments by Judy Chicago and Materials & Applications, May 13, 2012, !WOMEN ART REVOLUTION official trailer, 13 May 2012, Woman's Building History: Feminist Art Workers (Otis College), 13 May 2012, Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present / Institute For Long Duration Performance Art, 13 may 2012


Female Surrealist Artsits 2012, Susan Gilbert, The F Word: Contemporary UK Feminism, online article, accessed 1 May 2012,

Double vision, Germaine Greer, The Guardian: Art and Design blog, online article, accessed 3 May 2012,

IN THE END, IT WAS ALL ABOUT YOU, by Jerry Saltz, May 13 2012,,, April 1 2012

Occult Chemistry and the Theosophical Aesthetics, Jan 27 2012

Beyond the Kitsch Barrier: An Exploration of the Bauhauroque , Jan 27 2012,,

Stephen Mueller article Art Forum Ida Pancelli , Jan 27 2012,;col1

Nathalie Djuberg, Jan 30 2012,,

Lalla Essaydi, Brooklyn Museum Feb 29,,

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