I began this week by photographing my finished product in the lighting room, utilising the white backdrop to portray the displacement of the boxes in contrast to their surroundings to represent the disconnect I felt towards my surroundings during my episodes of derealisation and signify the distortion of reality through the streak contrast emphasising that the boxes do not belong.
Overall I’m really happy with the final result, despite always having a love for graffiti this was my first time fully utilising it in an abstract manner as in my previous artwork, graffiti acted solely as a background for a semi-realistic drawing, so to have it as the central focus is something I’m extremely glad I was able to do thanks to the help of Miranda and Phil.
In reflection, if I was to carry on with this project I may have created more boxes to hang from the ceiling, perhaps with a continuation of the eye stencil to increase the disturbing voyeuristic presence, This unnerving response would be further triggered by the empty white space taking up the ground and floor with only a few boxes scattered about contrasting the swarming of eyes hanging from the ceiling providing an unexpected offputting view.
In addition to this, I also conducted artist research for my proposal form, of which I had to decide on four artists that paired well with my own project (‘Wonderland’).
I knew for certain I wanted to include Katharina Grosse due to how much she influenced my work with the similarities existing in a technical and stylistic sense as we both use spraypaints and with two of my boxes in this project, a clear inspiration is acknowledged in response to Grosse through the use of colours and how they were spraypainted.
In addition to this, there is the theme of subjective reality as shown through the quote “There is no boundary between reality and the imagination.” Grosse encourages immersion within her work, to allow one’s imagination to run wild and alter their perception of the world.
From then it was more difficult to decide on the other 3 artists as I had to explore my own work to discover what I wanted to discuss on various topics through my project. On the surface ‘Wonderland’ is an abstract exploration of my personal experience with my mind and mental health as it is representative of my experience with derealisation. However it’s also a study in the woman’s experience specifically, how illness, pain and trauma are often romanticised, turned into something palatable for men to lust after in relation to our bodies
Reminding me of this quote by Marget Attwood
“Male fantasies, male fantasies, is everything run by male fantasies? Up on a pedestal or down on your knees, it’s all a male fantasy: that you’re strong enough to take what they dish out, or else too weak to do anything about it. Even pretending you aren’t catering to male fantasies is a male fantasy: pretending you’re unseen, pretending you have a life of your own, that you can wash your feet and comb your hair unconscious of the ever-present watcher peering through the keyhole, peering through the keyhole in your own head, if nowhere else. You are a woman with a man inside watching woman. You are your own voyeur.”
From here on out I focused on exploring solely female surrealist artists that worked on capturing the female experience alongside a distorted perception of reality.
To begin with, I came to the conclusion that for the progression of my exhibit I wanted to transition from 2-D work, such as paintings before gradually progressing into installation pieces, finalising with Katharina Grosse, as her installation fully transforms the room.
This led me to discover Toyen – Marie Čermínová and Ithell Colquhoun.
Toyen – Marie Čermínová
Recurring features in Toyen’s work are clearly outlined objects or figures set against an abstract background that seem to act as intermediaries between reality and dream world or slowly dissolve in it.
In Prague in 1948, the Communist party assumed power leading Toyen to withdraw to Paris. Here the artist focused more intensely on the contrast between the omnipresence of the woman as an object of yearning in media in tandem with her position in society.
“Paravent” (1966) alternates between the erotic femme fatale, who level with her pudendum has the face of a feline predator and a female contour pushed back into the shadow of a male figure.
Sexualization of the female and its ironic depiction are central topics in Toyen’s artwork where oversized mouths dominate small women’s faces, blurred silhouettes of bodies reveal only the secondary sexual characteristics.
Colquhoun was a British painter and writer, who was born in Assam, India, but moved to England as a child. It was here she studied painting at the Slade School, London, from 1927 to 1931, where she engaged in multi-figure narrative compositions.
In 1931 she encountered Surrealism in Paris and after the 1936 London International Surrealist exhibition, she came under the influence of the famous surrealist, Salvador Dalí, who could have heavily influenced her perspective surrounding women. Her work during this period shows a fixation with analogies between the body and the landscape.
The unsettling Gouffres Amers (1939, Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow) portrays a male reclining nude, decaying but still alive. Whitney Chadwick points out that the pose’s origins are historically associated with the seductive female figures of painters such as Cranach.
From here on I wanted to find an artist that would allow a smooth transition into my and Grosse’s installations and therefore I began my search for an artist who combines both 2-D and 3-D, perhaps a collage artist?
I began my search simply searching up female surrealist artists, which led to the discovery of Toyen and Colquhoun, alongside Dorothea Tanning.
What first drew me to her work was her painting Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
I loved the moody colour pallet in contrast to the sunflower and the girl’s stark white outfit, paired with the use of perspective to further add to the symbolism of the doors representing the transition into womanhood, theorising that the flower is then a symbol of virginity/sex, with the all-white outfit signifying the young girls “purity”. This is further supported through the other character clearly in a state of exhaustion, her white outfit in a state of distress as she slumps against a doorframe wearing a red cardigan, red often symbolising sex by being traditionally worn on characters branded “promiscuous”. To finalise this theory and round it back to my previous point about the sunflower as we witness the girl in red clutching a sunflower petal.
Despite my love for Tanning’s work and her obviously fitting into my exhibition’s intent, I’d already decided that I wasn’t looking for another painter and was disappointed and prepared to move on until I discovered her later work.
A continuation of her depictions of the uncomfortable nature of female growth from adolescence into womanhood, her work demonstrates a preoccupation with thresholds, liminal and transitional spaces in which fantasy, reality, sensation and imagination converge. Doors, wallpaper and cloth are symbols of these thresholds that create otherworldly spaces.
To finalise this week, on Friday we conducted my workshop on Worry Dolls.
I was unsure how this workshop would go considering it was such a simple concept, I worried that it wouldn’t be able to fill the 3 hours. However, I learnt that a simple concept is actually ideal as it allows adaptation, which was demonstrated early on in the workshop through the decision to make the worry doll bigger and make two instead of one to allow the equal involvement of everyone in the creation of the doll.
The playlist was well received and discussion was encouraged surrounding the theme surrounding the worry dolls while also taking place naturally, although after taking time to hear feedback at the end of the workshop it was acknowledged that there became two separate groups for the creation of worry dolls and people would have liked to of moved about more to encourage further interaction. Furthermore, there were some organisational and communications, that have made me more frequently check my emails and respond quickly to prevent repeated mistakes.
At the suggestion of Miranda, we also created accessories for the dolls, creating more activities for people and offering personality for the dolls while creating a stronger bond between ourselves and the dolls, developing the intensity of emotions when we burn the dolls, which is also why I was insistent on us creating the dolls from scratch in addition to us attaching our worries and then carrying them to be put on display as a group.
The dolls were placed near the entrance for accessibility along with paper, pens and safety pins so others not a part of the initial workshop could add their worries, expanding the experience to a wider community and further enhancing that connection i strived to form through this workshop.