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"WE ARE SURROUNDED BY EMPTINESS, BUT IT IS AN EMPTINESS FILLED WITH SIGNS."
- Henri Lefebvre
"Tanith Gould invites her audience to question the issues of humanness, using sound and imagery to interrogate nostalgia and our deep routed connection to song." - Review by Seamus Denham
It would be wrong to say that my work is about memory, because it is not. I have no memory of my Grandad at all. The work isn't about memory, but about the lack of it. The absence of one another in our lives. I explore his character through the memory of a third person - but I do not know him and he does not know me. The work is disconnected but searching.
Degree Show Set Up
We have been lucky enough to have been given the whole ground floor of Belmont to curate a group show as The Belmont Collective. I have three films in one room within a square and one film in the centre of other room. My work XXVIII is situated next to Tony's work which looks at WW1 and remembrance. I feel like our work compliments each other well as the music from mine although from a few decades later, has a feel of a similar time and works as a good accompaniment for his work too. My work is also about the past and remembrance. In the other room, my film is set out on top of a coffee table with a comfy chair with a red throw (the fabric used in the video) - I was unsure about using it as I didn't want it to appear gimmicky. Originally I had the white piece of fabric over the top but I think it looked too much and Virginia suggested trying just the red one. I am happy with how it looks because it connects the chair and the imagery on the TV screen without being too OTT. I tried the set up in different places around the room. (the window and the centre) but I think it looked best off centre as it doesn't interfere with other people's work - when it was in the centre it was lined up with Emily's work looked clunky and interfered with her paintings too much. It also brings the room together (as it is quite a long room) and it breaks it up and makes it feel less intimidating for the public to walk into. Also, due to the layout of the room and the fact it used to be home and then a B&B, the comfy seat and TV brings a domestic atmosphere to the room which I was not expecting.
We ran into a couple of difficulties whilst hanging - as the screens were being tied to metal wire by fishing wire, both of which move or stretch, it meant that it was very hard to get the screens in the right place. Every time we tied it, because of the weight and the movement in the wires, it would bounce back into a different place. However, we got there in the end, and I am happy with where they are placed. Also, when I was planning the show, I wanted to have the films stretching out to the outside of the screens, but due to the format of the Matrox triple head, the films didn't stretch all the way and so there was a black frame around it. If I had cropped them to have the films filling the screen, the light from the projector (where the black boarder is) would have shone out and onto the wall opposite, obstructing Emily's work. Another thing that needs to be rectified is the stat of the screens which got a bit scratched whilst the show was being put up. The corner of one of them was also chipped when it was cut in the work shop. I think I might try and carefully glue a small piece of paper onto the corner so it isn't so noticeable. Once I have worked through all of these things, I think I will be happy with the final outcome.
We will be having a booth with a couple of tables where we can sell prints and small pieces of work. I am also in the middle of making a Belmont Collective Zine which has a selection of all of our work and a short piece of accommodating writing to go with it. I have a prototype currently but will make a selection of them to sell at the show. I also have had some business cards made.
My Updated Art CV
Short Test Films
These two films show some of the ideas that I was initially wanting to play around with. I was experimenting with different audio along side different footage. These two shots in particular really stood out to me. I liked their simplicity and colour and also their slight abstract quality. The film of my aunt talking, I feel, may be a bit too literal but I liked the anecdote that went with the footage.
In the old recording that accompanies some footage of my grandmother's wedding ring on a gold chain, my Grandad anthropomorphises and feminises a Bechstein piano in the most beautiful and poetic way before playing it. As music (especially hymns and songs of praise) was a large part of my Grandparent's relationship, the film discusses their marriage and their connection to the piano and their religion.
"The voice of our centenarian Bechstein. Her ivory keys now comprise part of a modern electronic organ. Her cabinet resides in the home of Mr and Mrs Hawker." - Ray Wyatt.
Whilst I was in Devon, I decided to have a play with different ways of projecting my films. I projected the film Following Him onto an old barn wall and this was the result. Unfortunately my camera didn't work when I was projecting so I had to record on my phone which is why the quality isn't great. I really liked the outcome, the patterns in the wall give another dimension to the work. However, I think that it was more successful as an installation and not as a recording to show outside of the context. If I had the means, I would love to show this film on a large, open air screen, maybe on Dartmoor to tie in the landscape and give the viewers an experience which is authentic to the film. I may organise something like that in the future.
This is a small film quickly showing some of the initial ideas I had for the project before it became about memory and family stories and relationships. The plan was to create a short film about my aunt and a selection of her interests as a follow on from the body of work about the menopause (however I was hoping for this film to be more visually enticing than the work before). I was very interested in her passion for dance and drumming and followed her to a light festival in Bristol in which she was a part of the procession. I recorded some footage and audio of the procession and was really inspired by the tempo and the energy and had ideas to create a film which changed pace with each topic that she spoke about. I stayed with my aunt for about a week and began recording different sounds that occurred everyday around my aunt, especially music as music is very important within the household. I have some nice recordings of my cousin playing different world instruments which I was planning on using for different transitions. Although I was taken down a different route, and I'm glad I was, I would really like to create this film in the future and learn and exercise a different set of skills.
Experiment with separate visual and audio
"Because we had this very religious upbringing, we had always been told that at any point in time, all the Christian people would suddenly be taken - if I didn't hear my mother singing, I would think that she'd suddenly disappeared and left me." - K.W
This video depicts slowed down footage of my aunt putting on my Grandmother's (her mother) jewellery. At the time, I wanted to draw some parallels between my aunt and my Gran, but after playing around with different audio, I found that this hymn worked really well with it and added a different and a more emotive narrative. I was reminded of what my aunt had told me about thinking my gran had be taken to heaven without her if she didn't hear her singing. The lady's voice at the beginning of the audio is my Grandmother. The importance of her wearing my Gran's jewellery is that it creates a connection between the two. There is a strange parallel between my aunt's childhood anxiety and her adult reflection as rather than my Gran being present but not heard, her voice is present but she is not physically here.
You can hear her speak about this in the audio below, it starts at about 4.20.
Thoughts On Memory
I have got a few books out of the library which are about memory. There is one in particular which has really gripped me. It is called 'Technologies of Memory in the Arts' edited by Liedeke Plate and Anneke Smelik. It touches on several good points that have made me think about my work with more depth.
“Objects retain something of the eyes which have looked at them… a thing which we have looked at in the past brings back to us, if we see it again, not only the eyes with which we looked at it but all the images with which at the time through those eyes filled.” – Marcel Proust. Does this also mean that by looking at an object (my grandad's dressing gown for example), that object also holds all of the eyes of everyone that has ever looked at it. Can we as human's sense an object's worth by an accumulation of eyes that have looked at it. Can we understand an object's historic/social/emotional worth just by looking at it? Is the dressing gown important to me because I know that it is important to my cousin and my aunt? It is obvious that the gown is important to my aunt because she would have had memories of my grandad wearing it. But why is it important to my cousin and I? Just through association, or something more?
"Artefacts from childhood serve as contribution to the collective memory, but many are also part of personal narratives and function as representation of a particular time and space of childhood." Although it wasn't necessarily an artefact that sparked the childhood memory of playing in the duvet in the sunlight for me (more of a feeling), this is very relevant to my collaborative piece and the importance of the fabric which symbolises the duvet from my memory. After a while, a memory breaks down and becomes fragmented until it develops into an abstract image or a feeling.
In a chapter named: 'Minimalism, Memory and the Reflection of Absence', they talk about the Word Trade Centre and how after 9/11 a memorial was built in place of the tower; a presence in the absence. It got me thinking about how 'XXVIII Years' is essential a memorial - a presence in the absence of a life and of a potential relationship.
"Pain is often experienced as absolute and timeless. It does not register as a changing product of specific periods and particular locations." ..."Pain can no more simply proceed from a body of an individual without ever engaging with another body." What I hope to achieve with the films is for the viewer t be able to relate to the emotion of my aunt and to have the viewer be able to feel and understand the pain being expressed by my aunt. "." No "we" should be taken for granted when the subject is looking at other people's pain" - Susan Sontag. - If there is no 'we' when confronted with suffering and agony, should we talk about sharing and transmitting the memory of pain at all?"
"In psychoanalysis, projection is understood to be a defence mechanism that allows the subject to come to terms with certain impulses by attributing them to someone else." - Perhaps I am projecting my sadness and disconnected grief of the loss of the grandfather I never met onto my aunt, and feeling my own pain through her pain.
Friada Kahlo represented different stages of pain within her work by painting her memories of her paint at different time during her life and healing processes. "She demonstrated that the self in pain undergoes many differentiated stages of being and states of transition. At the same time, this self is easily conceptualised and victimised and marginal." - My aunt makes the point that, although my grandad's death was 28 years ago, there are still certain triggers that bring her back to a certain memory. and she feels that pain again. But this pain is anole pain, one that is reflective and melancholic rather than fresh and destabilising.
"We shall never reach the past unless we frankly place ourselves within it." - This is what I am doing with my films, I am placing myself within history by taking and manipulating old, found recordings and placing it with an old dressing gown. I can't go back into the past, but I can bring the past into the present.
Hand Painted Dress (Witches Dancing)
Side project playing with different ways of presenting work
Test set up for degree show
My Degree show will feature my films back projected onto three pieces of frosted perspex. The larger screen in the middle will have Thou Art Near followed by the two smaller ones either side which will show Following Him simultaneously. Due to the frosted side, the light doesn't seep through but rests on the surface so it appears to be a floating screen.
(Here is a good example of different ways of using projection - obviously the content is very different to mine, but I enjoy the way the fabric moves around. Another possibility was to project onto weighted paper - but I thought it would be nicer to have something more substantial.)
I thought that this would be a good way to display the films as they represent the way that memories are transient and encapsulated within the mind of an individual. I thought this would be better than having them on box monitors for example, as they have the ability to sway and echo the movement of the dressing gown in the wind.
The reason behind having both of the films and not just one, is that I wanted to represent the different levels of memory being stirred. His singing acts as a catalyst for this - the more the memory is stirred, the faster the gown moves. This is why I want Following Him to come after Thou Art Near.
The first footage I took of Thou Art Near was in my aunt's back garden and I really enjoyed the way that it looked as if the dressing gown was breathing. The space within could be symbolic of the passing of time. However, the garden was too visually busy and distracted from the gown. The dressing gown in Thou Art Near (on Dartmoor) looks as if he is dancing, but the dressing gown in Following Him, is much more violent but illustrates the initial shock of loss as well as my own feelings about never meeting him.
XXVIII Years (Following Him and Thou Art Near)
Through the medium of film, I mix old family recordings with personal recollections. I explore the life and character of the Grandfather I never met and scrutinise my own detached bereavement. The work is drenched with religious connotations which illustrates his personal connection with his faith.
I mix the haunting sound of his voice with visual metaphors involving his dressing gown to illustrate a universal feeling of loss through the human attachment to music and objects.
I explore themes of absence and presence using the natural elements. I return to a place of great personal importance and use the wind as a suggestion of breath. The barren and spacious landscape around the gown signifies a reflective space and the passing of time.
I took two trips to Dartmoor to get the right footage. The first trip was during storm Doris and the weather was very changeable. One minute it was bright sunshine, the next it was hail and gale force winds. This was when I shot the footage for Following Him. I shot it on my small Pentax kr, which is nowhere near the quality of the Cannon that was used for the other films. However, I really liked the grainy and rough quality mixed with the grey and the violent movement of the dressing gown. I wanted to use the footage somehow but when I put it with the audio of Thou Art Near, it didn't work at all as the tone and pace of the audio was much slower and more contemplative. So, I decided to play around with different clips of the old recordings and found one of my Grandad singing which worked really well.
On my second trip to Dartmoor, I drove around a lot and tried the set up in several different places, as I had done the time before. I went back to the same place as before, a marsh with dead, black trees. I found the black outline of the trees mixed with the stark yellow of the reeds very dramatic and I felt it worked well with the red of the gown. I tried it on several different trees. It was strange how connected I became with the dressing gown, the way it moved was very human and I found myself referring to it as, "Grandad'. The shot that I went with in the end was actually the last shot. It was when something magical happened; the gown blew off the coat hanger as if to tell me that we had finished.
I tested out some panning shots but I didn't feel they were that effective as they became more about the landscape and less about the dressing gown and its symbolism. I took the dressing gown to some woodlands on Dartmoor which was a beautiful back drop but I get that the trees detracted from the dressing gown and over complicated the shot.
Norma's Colours by Florence Kennard
Norma's Colours is a beautiful film about a woman's memory of her mother through the bright colours she filled her life with. At the beginning and at the end there are several shots of her mother's bright clothes hanging off a tree in the dark. The footage is accompanied by a haunting, low frequency hum. This film was a big inspiration to me. You can watch it here.
Lynne Ramsay, Small Deaths
Lynne Ramsay is know for her stark scenes witch become adulterated by the odd splash of a vivid good red colour. Jacob T. Swinney has created a video on Vimeo which highlights all of the scenes which feature the colour red. It can be seen here.
Collaborative film (Tanith Gould and Katy Broad)
Artists Who Work With Memory
Szapocznikow, Alina's Funeral
"Szapocznikow (1926-73), a Holocaust survivor who died of cancer while desperately trying to preserve traces of her fading body." Was she trying to preserve herself in the eyes of others? By forcing people to look at her body as it fades? Or was she trying to remember the way her body used to be?
Her work features fragmented sculptures representing different body parts. Her work relates strongly to Frida Kahlo who also documented her body whilst she endured the pain of a serious accident. It also relates to Louise Bourgeois who made work about her painful memories in order to understand them better.
Frida Kahlo Louise Bourgeois
Tacita Dean, Michael Hamburger, 2007
(Link to a 3 min clip here)
This film quietly observes the poet Michael Hamburger as he speaks about his relationship to his apple trees. The pace is slow and reflective - something I have discovered to be a common trait with elderly people. As the article says, rather than talking 'of his past and his migrations, most especially fleeing Nazism in 1933, he talks poignantly, instead, of his apple trees, of where they have come from, and of their careful cross-breeding.'
In Memory | A mother’s journey through death and grieving in the digital age.
'In Memory tells the story of one community’s digital journey through the life, death and remembrance of PlainWhite Tom, a Chicago street performer who tragically took his life on January 1, 2013. For this community, Facebook was the stage for the events prior to and after PlainWhite Tom’s death.'
This beautiful film captures the bitter sweet reflection of loss and the haunting process of grief. The film is nostalgic and emotive - things that I aim to create with my own film about my Grandfather.
This film reminded me of the MOTH lecture (alongside Cafe Morte) last year which spoke about Facebook as being a graveyard for people who have passed. This film suggests that the community found on Facebook aided the grieving process. and poses to question the future landscape of grief.
"Chicago-based Armita Raafat performs an archeology of memory in evocative mixed-medium installations that draw on architectural motifs from Iran, the country of her familial roots. Born in Chicago, she moved with her family to Iran in 1980 when she was four, then returned to the U.S. in 2003. The Iran-Iraq War, which she witnessed while growing up, serves as an important backdrop to the artist’s multilayered works, in which personal and collective memory intertwine. Situated in the back gallery of threewalls’s newly expanded space were large wall reliefs and two sculptural pieces evoking severed columns, which together functioned as an integrated whole suggesting a mosque interior in a state of disrepair or damage." (Article found here)
Interestingly, Raafat also looks back into her roots and focuses on certain aspects of her culture such as religion. The way she uses space is really interesting, it is as if the viewer is standing inside a damaged mosque.
PLEASE NOTE: Some of the films have been removed for the individual's privacy.
DISCLAIMER: The films that I have put on YouTube have lost a significant amount of Quality.
Again this is a very rough edit of the initial footage of my mum and Tina. I am quite pleased with the image quality and the compositions but the sound quality is lacking. In the future I could potentially take segmants of the dialogue and create some kind of poetry to work along side some drawings or something. I find the parralels really interesting with these two women. They had completely different backgrounds and upbringings but they have had many similar experiences regarding relationships with men and their relationship with their mothers. It is very interesting that Tina talks about her mother being very young (15 when she had her sister) and my mum talking about her mum having her when she was much older (41).
This is a rough cut of the footage with Michelle and my mum. I am quite fond of the beginning (which I work on in the original film). There is a lot of really interesting dialogue in this film but the footage isn't so great as I filmed quite late in the day when it was getting dark. I have been thinking a lot about what I may want to show for the degree show - I don't think the footage is really up to scratch to be shown but it would be a shame for all of this to go to waste, so I may use the audio in a future project, perhaps over some interesting visuals - make a more 'creative film'.
CLICK HERE to hear Jig of Life by Kate Bush.
I would love to create some more 'arty' films with more atmosphere in the future. Films such as, Norma's Colours by Florence Kennard (found HERE), and When Day is Done by Brandon Roots (found HERE) Bacon & God's Wrath by Sol Friedman (found HERE). I watch lots of films on Short of the Week in my spare time and always come away feeling inspired. I really feel like film making is an exciting new venture for me. It has the ability to say so much. I often feel that my paintings don't quite say exactly what I want them to say... maybe film can help with this?
FILM IDEA WITH AUNTY KATHY
After the hand in my plan is to go up to Bristol and stay with my aunt for a few days and conduct some interviews with her. There was a conversation that we had during the summer that has stood out in my mind. We were discussing my grandparents and that part of the family. She was telling me some stories that she had recently found out about her paternal grandmother (my great-grandmother) from a family friend at a funeral. She said that during this conversation she realised that once the last person of that generation had died, she would then belong to the 'elder generation'. My aunt has always been a very inspiring and vibrant person with heaps of energy so I'm sure she will be a great person to interview!
I have learnt a lot from my mistakes with the previous films in terms of sound and editing and the importance of outtakes. So I feel much more confident in producing a film of good quality.
MEDIUM FORMAT PHOTOS
I've been looking at a lot of domestic doccumentary photography recently, especially the work of Tom Hunter whose work has a beautiful painterly quality. His compositions often resemble the paintings of the old masters (in fact much of his work mimics old paintings).
I would love to create a series of images which focus on the lives of the women I have been interviewing. I would like them to be comositionally very similar to old paintings. I think that shooting in medium format would suit them best because it has a beautiful sensitivity about it and the quality almost mimics paint.
I think that in order to take images that truely reflect the subject and their lives, I would have to spend a good amount of time with them so that they become comfortable with the camera and so I can pick up on their habitual routines.
Various artists - see here for more.
KONENKI: An exploration into the lives of menopausal and post menopausal women. Allowing these women a platform to share their stories and wisdom.
This is a little clip of one of the videos I am currently working on, it has been recorded on my phone from the computer - hense the bad quality! The film features my friend's gran, Marge. We stayed at her's over night and filmed for many hours from about 9 in the morning. She was absolutely amazing, her honesty and openess was extremely touching. I have decided to make a seperate film of Marge as she is from a different generation to the other women I have been interviewing. The pace of the interview was much slower and the colours were much more muted (mostly due to the time of year it was filmed and the fact it was filmed using a different camera) I feel this reflects her stage of life as well as her personality. The other women were in their 50s and were either experiencing or about to experience the menopause. Each of these videos had an energy and vibrancy to them whereas with Marge, her words were much more contemplative and in some ways weren't so emotianally fired up. I feel this says a lot about the stages of life, the women in their 50s were in the midst of a complete change; change in lifestyle, pace, and biology so they are experiencing a big upheaval and that is very apparent in the way they communicate. Marge, on the other hand has been through it and come out the other end. In this last phase of her life, she is given a space to be able to reflect.
I am having some technical problems with the films - as it is my first time creating a film of this kind, I am pretty much stumbling blindly through it. I didn't realise that the footage had to be rendered throughout the editing process. This has caused the footage to be very juddery and now the rendering process is 16h. Also, some of the audio has corrupted (the audio shown at the beginning of this short clip) which means that unless I can locate it, I will be unable to use the footage which is a shame because it was a really important part.
I am also creating another film which is features the other women. I am having difficulty connecting the vidoes so that they flow and create a narrative. I have decided to put footage together of the women speaking on smilar topics. The first films I did were taken in the summer and I didn't think to record some outtakes of the surroundings etc so I only have continuous shots of the interviews. This has caused difficulty with editing them together as the transitions between shots don't flow very well.
Recently I have felt at a bit uncertain with how I want to paint the portraits. I automatically go towards trying to create a hyper realistic image but I don’t feel that is appropriate for this series. I think this may be because I am unsure of what I want them to say. They could either be used to comment on the way that older women are viewed (i.e. as invisible). OR they cold be used to interrogate the patriarchal system that governs women’s bodies and tells them that they are useless after a certain age. Initially I wanted the portraits to appear strong and powerful, but I feel that the women already do that themselves in the films – so maybe making a series of portraits which comment on the way that ageing women often feel invisible would be the best route?
I have been inspired recently by a lot of painters who use large but vey few marks to suggest a face. My inspiration board on Pintrest (a bit further down now) shows some of the works that I have been looking at: CLICK HERE
I set off to try and emulate (or at least work in a similar way) the style of these painters. I first decided to attempt the painting of Tina again but found it very difficult as there was just too much information that I wanted to fit in. I started scratching away at the paint with the back end of a paintbrush (second image) - I actually quite like the effect this gave along with the bold marks and the rubbed out faded marks. However, the image as a whole didn’t work. After a lot of frustration I decided I would work on a different person. This time, Dena. At first, using a palette knife, I created heavy and strong marks – again, I liked the texture and the depth to it but it didn’t work as a whole. I decided that I would scrape all of the paint off in a downward motion. I decided that I would distract myself from the face for the time being and concentrate on the body. I created bold outlines with dark blue – I found that this together with the distorted face looked quite intriguing. However, I’m not 100% sure how much I like it, or if it is finished. I’ll put it to one side and come back to it another time I think.
Please see below for my dissertation: Konenki: An exploration into the interpretation of the ‘Crone’ within art and its impact on today’s views of the menopause within mass culture.
Myself and the others from my studio have decided to set up a collective. We decided to call ourselves The Belmont Collective. We have an Instragram page and are planning on creating a website. We have been in contact with Falmouth Art Gallery about the possibility of an exhibition. They invited us to one of their opening nights which was great. We hope to have some work there in the future. CLICK HERE to see the Instagram page. We were very lucky to recieve a lot of support quite quickly.
'Tina, Dena and Mum'
I have realised that my overriding interest and curiosity has always been for people, for the reasons why they are who they are and the stories that they have to tell. I have always done this, within portraiture I have always looked for something secret or hidden from the rest of the world. These films really interest me as they show the intricacies of human nature and the complexity of our relationships. They are beautifully filmed too.
'Witches Dancing' (taken from a series of one minute life drawings)
"It is important to know that the word Crone, often used pejoratively to mean "old hag" has noble origins. Hag used to mean "a holy one," from the Greek hagia. I am consciously learning to love my old woman, my old hag, to reframe and re-enchant this ancient archetype." (Helen Redman, 2011)
After watching several of these Style Like U videos, these two really stood out to me and I became fascinated by the menopause and the mysticism surrounding it. I wanted to challenge western culture's negative view on the menopause.
I am currently creating a series of films and paintings which focus on the lives of a few individuals during this transitional phase of life. I have been exploring the lives of certain indigenous cultures and their view of the menopause and applying their reverence of the menopausal woman in my practice, through interviewing these women; seeking to give them a platform to voice their own cumulative wisdom.
In this lecture with Patricia McCabe, a woman belonging to the Diné Nation and the Lacota tribe of South-Western America, she speaks about how during a women’s ‘moon time’ (menstruation) she is separate from the rest of the community and spends the time in reflection and meditation. She speaks about how within this time, a woman is more open to the knowledge of the universe, “hold[ing] a gateway in her body between heaven and earth”. Once a woman’s moon time is over, she has an opportunity to reflect on the knowledge she has acquired; the elder women of the community, having experience many ‘moon times’, are celebrated as being sources of wisdom.
I have chosen to display the femme fatale work on a rounded table with very traditionally feminine fabrics. My aim was to create a hyper-feminine and almost kitsch display (as seen in today's 'tumblr feminist' art) which plays on the presumed role of the femme fatale as well as providing a juxtaposition between the safety and innocence of what could be a tea party set up with the phallic symbolism of the bananas. She stares directly ahead with intensity, the unpeeled bananas presumably in her control. The hand is unknown but almost certainly female and it grasps the banana as it would a gun. Thus referring back to old movie posters of seductive women holding guns (innuendo for the femme fatale's control over a man and in particular his genitalia).
Whilst painting the femme fatale portrait, I realised that it wasn't quite working. The aim was to create a more ‘free’ painting – having some areas with detail and allowing other areas to be simple lines or marks. My brain seemed to take over and proceeded to fill in what it thought was ‘unfinished’. Due to the confined space; I was not as able to observe my work from a distance so the proportions were all out (head too big). I have decided that the photo I am working from is far better than anything I could paint and I believe it can and should exist as a piece in a right of its own.
I thought of different ways in which I could communicate my ideas and came up with the idea of creating a triptych, one of her face, one of her breast and the other of her hand holding the banana. I wanted the quality of the paint to be quite rough and playful. After painting her face I realised, again, that the photos were far better than anything I could paint (paint wouldn’t add anything to the image) and I decided to display two photos of bananas either side of the portrait, one unpeeled and the other unpeeled with a bite taken out.
Inspiration that I have been looking at. For the original idea I was particularly inspired by the lines in the top right and how some areas were detailed and others areas not so much.
For the triptych I was looking particularly at the the quality of marks in the top left image. Unfortunately I couldn't find the artist.
For my dissertation I will be looking at the notion of the femme fatale. During my research I found a connection between the story of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and the Biblical story of Adam and Eve. In my Dissertation Proposal I write:
I will explore the different forms a femme fatale can take, for example; in 1958, Vladimir Nabokov wrote Lolita, a story of a man’s obsession for a 12 year old girl. I will argue that Nabokov represents the girl as a femme fatale. Humbert gives the child the name Lolita; a variation of the name Lilith who appeared in the Bible as the first and demonic wife of Adam. In the book, Nabokov writes, “Humbert was perfectly capable of intercourse with Eve, but it was Lilith he longed for.” (Unknown., 2016) Here suggesting that he could have relations with mature women if he wanted to but it was the innocence from before he ‘ate the apple’ that he craved. Additionally:-
“by comparing Lolita and nymphets in general to Lilith, the more obscure female temptress, Humbert Humbert is essentially transforming the innocent girl child into a femme fatale, the erotic powers of whom only a few select can appreciate. This is of course, part of his attempt to escape the moral implications of his behaviour and shifting the blame to the "sexuality" of girls.” (Johnson, B., 2011)
I will explore the complex power struggle between the two which, at times almost becomes a backwards game of cat and mouse in which the mouse teases the cat. Humbert uses the term ‘nymphet’ to describe his sexual preference (a prepubescent girl between the age of 9 and 12).In the book Nabokov writes; “She had painted her lips and was holding in her hollowed hands a beautiful, banal, Eden-red apple. She was not shod, however, for church.” (Healy, J., 2011) Bananas feature heavily in the book; contrasting the Eden-like innocence of Lolita’s childhood with phallic symbolism representing her sexual corruption. Furthermore, the image of Lolita eating a banana with red lips echoes the act of intercourse. This reference to Adam and Eve paints Lolita as a temptress, ‘holding in her hand the fruit of knowledge of good and evil.’ (Healy, J., 2011) When Lolita is taken by another man, Humbert is broken and her rejection towards the end of the book leads him to murder her kidnapper. Again, this arguably gives Lolita the title of a femme fatale. Can a female be seen as a temptress at any age? Are the unwanted advances of men partially the fault of the female? Is it nature for women to be alluring to men or is it societal?
During the time spent writing and researching I became inspired by the subject. I have been really interested in the moment when innocence is lost or taken - in the example of Eve it is when she eats the apple and becomes aware and ashamed that she is naked - with Lolita, the moment she loses her innocence isn't as obvious; is it the moment she loses her virginity? Or is it simply Humbert's desire for her?
Interestingly, ‘the nymphet does not exist outside her relationship to her male counterpart and must engage in the male’s image of her.’ It is Humbert’s desire for Lolita that christens her a nymphet; therefore is it he who holds her powers of seduction?
My idea for my next painting is to have a topless woman with red lipstick holding a peeled banana and cupping one of her breasts. What I want to represent through this is the moment innocence is lost - like Eve she has just become aware of her own nudity and tries to cover it but at the same time she finds her own sexuality - the red lips and banana echoing this. I want to represent that awkward moment around the start of puberty when a girl becomes self-conscious of her body but at the same time is starting to discover her sexuality.
In 1969 Blind Faith released their self-titled album with a pre-pubescent 11 year old girl holding a toy plane as the album artwork. The artwork caused outrage at what was deemed 'a blatant display of child pornography'. But why is the image considered pornographic? She isn't performing any sexual act or suggesting anything sexual - she is merely a young girl innocently playing with a toy plane. An argument against the image was that the plane was a phallic symbol - is it? If it was a topless 11 year old boy playing with a toy plane, would the plane be seen as phallic? Or would it just be seen for what it is - a toy plane. The only reason this image was deemed controversial is because the girl is forming breasts - breasts that are deemed sexual by society. When you represent a child with having something that society sees as sexual, people become outraged because they know that the sexualisation of children is inherently wrong. In reality, all this image shows is a person and their body - it just so happens that that person is an 11 year old girl at the doors of puberty. The only issue I have with this image is the issue of consent; it was rumored that the girl was offered a pony if she posed for the picture - bribery that she innocently accepted not really understanding the situation.
On the other hand - the album Virgin Killer by the Scorpions is completely inappropriate. It features a 10 year old girl in a seductive pose displaying her genitalia which is conveniently covered by a crack in what appears to be a mirror or a piece of glass (perhaps a window). This gives it a voyeuristic element as if she is performing for someone, She is conscious of the fact that she is being watched. Apparently the title is supposed to refer to the fact that time is the killer of innocence - however the message it gives is a much darker one.
I have noticed that there is a trend of femme fatales being represented in a similar pose (Virgin Killer) with their legs splayed and their genitalia covered, often with their arm. Showing a woman with her own sexuality that is capable of seducing a man but also teasing him - making the pursuit dangerous for him.
- Experimenting with banana positions.
Film posters and a book cover.
MAN HATER She would use her body to destroy any man!
- You can describe a femme fatale any better than that!
My partner found these two cards for me at a charity shop. Note how how the one on the left has her legs spread and her left arm is almost beckoning but her other arm is blocking her genitalia. She is strong and in control. The one on the right represents a woman as an evil nonhuman creature that is both beautiful and deadly. This depiction is seen throughout history and art history with mythological stories such as the Sirens and Medusa.
Rajkumar Lama for Reflections 25.4.16
Over Easter I entered a competition in which 20 artists were selected to create a piece of work about an individual who experienced last year's earthquakes in Nepal. The money raised from the selling of prints and eventually a book will go towards charity programs set up in Nepal (with a percentage given to the artist). I was given a man named Rajkumar, a man who runs an NGO to help the people in his village Bhummlu Salle, in Sindhupalchowk, one of the worst affected districts of Nepal.
I found this painting quite challenging as I didn't personally know him which meant that I wasn't able to capture his personality as easily. I had to really rely on the transcript and the audio of the interview as well as the photos. My main objective was to iconise him as a local hero, the way that one of the organisers spoke about him via email, it was obvious what a selfless and caring man he is and I really wanted to illustrate that. This is why I have included the gold leaf and the blue resembles the sky and something holy, sacred and divine.
Overall I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity and the possibility of it leading on to further things in the future. I hope that the project raises as much money as possible to help the people of Nepal.
This is the transcript of an interview that I was given as source material.
Unfortunately I was unable to attend the sister exhibition in Bristol but my mum managed to visit and took some photos of it for me. This is what my work looked like in the space.
The website is now up and running, please click here to visit!
Info about the artists.
I attended a manifesto workshop which was run by a fine art graduate. In the workshop we were encouraged to write a manifesto for our art practice and one for this semester.
Manifesto for my art practice
I will always take into consideration the composition of my work.
I will always think about colours and their symbolism / how they work together to convey mood.
I will always aim to make the audience feel or question.
Manifesto for this semester
I will think deeply about the issues in my practice as well as in my life.
I will do everything I can to overcome these issues but I will try not to be disheartened if I cannot at this moment in time. The answer will come eventually.
I will work authentically even if i feel the pressure to conform or to please other people. Art without authenticity and passion is not art at all.
I will draw everyday.
I will sign up to as many opportunities as I can.
I will do yoga, mediation and music each week as this will open my mind and aid my practice.
I will read this manifesto everyday.