In these images the impulse is to challenge, resist and subvert the cultural norms of female experience through the use of archetypes: the showgirl, the mother, the murderess, the seductress, the ‘battlemaiden’. Though the imagery is overtly figurative, the figures themselves are dislocated, in that they are not locked into a particular place.
I work with appropriation: I’m interested in how the images seem to ‘choose me’ and how this selection bypasses the usual cognitive mechanisms that control us and the nature of the correspondences between the drawing and its referent. These appropriations can reveal meaning not previously perceived in the original photographs.
These are reproductions of reproductions, seen through various ‘filters’ and the quality of my ‘defacements’ – I explore how historical references, apparently benign, can be made contemporary and carry a quite different ‘charge’. Old monochrome photographs often reveal ‘unsophisticated’ hand-rendered re-touching, over exposure and poor focus, which I play up in the drawings as ‘oddities’ of proportion, scale and depth of field.
I mostly use graphite in various forms: pencils, drawing sticks, powder – I really like its grey metallic quality, which for me is inherently nostalgic and relates closely to the old photographs I work with. I also use over-sized ‘rocks’ of graphite that are heavy and unwieldy in the hand which really engages me in the physical process of making contact with the paper.
The linen paper is reclaimed old stock from a printers, it is often stained and distressed, which gives me a surface with some integrity to work with.
Another favourite material is carbon copy paper, this offers the possibility to make multiple tracings from found images and to develop large composite drawings. The material produces a soft line that is vulnerable to the light. These drawings have to stay in the plan chest and rarely see the light of day…
My source materials include archival books, for example ‘The Housewife’s Manual’ 1943, ‘The Art of Beauty Culture’ 1921, 1940’s Hollywood Studio Albums, History of Art and Dolls Collectors books and vintage circus photographs from the local press, housed at Southend Central Museum.
The works are for sale, please use the artist contact form to enquire.
These images from the series: ‘Dressing Room’ bring to mind the passage in TS Elliot’s poem The Wasteland, from the same era as the original photographs:
‘…In vials of ivory and coloured glass
Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,
Unguent, powdered or liquid – troubled, confused
And drowned the sense in odours…’