Mother – Part 1
2016 was a quiet art year for me with lots going on in life. The first half of the year started out normally, working on different paintings and exploring new themes, but things changed in late spring. I found myself thinking a lot about motherhood, and what it meant as an artist to also be a mother. It’s something that I’ve been thinking a lot about these past few years. I asked myself how I could explore this in my art, where I’ve often looked at female roles. Going back to my interest in themes and images repeated throughout art history, I was drawn to representations of the Madonna. Identifying her as the Virgin Mary was dependent on her being a mother or else her virginity would be of no importance. So who was this woman that was depicted in countless paintings with her baby if the baby was taken out of the picture.
And so I began playing with images of the Madonna with child, deleting everything except her face and shroud. I rearranged the separate parts to create a new composition. I played with textures where her halo should be and colour gradients and lines replaced golden rays of light.
While I was working on this painting and my brain was obsessed with these ideas, I learned that I was pregnant. And then it all made sense why this overwhelming feeling to work on this painting seemed to take over my mind. But it also meant that while I was planning a series of these paintings, my time in the studio changed. I had to reacquaint myself with the basics of oil painting, as I used techniques that were reliant on solvents, which were now forbidden to use. And my paintings took longer, and I had much less energy. This was also when I was preparing to leave for Salzburg. So my Madonna painting was only finished upon my return, later in the fall, once I was feeling better and able to spend more hours in the studio again. I’ve only created the one from a planned series, but I hope to revisit this in the future.
Mother – Part 2
In the past, I’ve tried to create one self-portrait annually. There’s something very cathartic about painting these self-portraits. They are challenging, as who else’s likeness am I most familiar with? With any feature a millimetre off, it can change the complete look of a face. But I also really enjoy creating self-portraits, as I feel like they are just for me without worrying about what the painting means, if someone would want to buy it, or where does it fit within my practice. Many times, these paintings have marked important events in my life, however small or large they may seem to the outside world. There is a significance there for me. Sometimes they are more about feelings I was having, or my psychological state during that year. And other times they mark actual events. But more often than not, they are a mix of all these things, and also a way for me to work out new ideas and themes for future works in the backgrounds or style that I’ve chosen for each specific painting.
With my growing belly, I realized that I did not have many photos of myself pregnant, and it was something that I wanted to remember. As a child, I remember looking at photos of my mom when she was pregnant with me and how bewildering it was to think that I was once inside her. And I hope to be able to share this painting with my child someday.
I knew I wanted to work with an odd sized wood panel, one that I could use to emphasize the feeling of constraint. As I was physically growing in size, I imagined the tight quarters of my belly, but I also felt like I was being physically, mentally and emotionally stretched to extremes that I had never known. As with all my paintings, I think a lot about composition and space within the frame of the painting. A lot can be conveyed through the intentional use of space.
I also wanted this painting to be a celebration, hence the brightly coloured background and exploding flowers for my spring baby. This was the first time that I worked on a self-portrait with the flat, graphic patterns of my other paintings.
I finished this painting just in time, before I take a few months off once my baby is born. So things may be a little quiet on the art front for a little while, but I’m hoping to get back into things by summer and be back in the studio and also working from home on some new projects. In the meantime, I will be exhibiting a couple of drawings from my pretty boys kill me series and a wallpaper installation in superyoung, a group exhibition curated by Zoë Chan at the Kamloops Art Gallery. The exhibition will run from April until July.