University of Tasmania
whole-thesis-dark-matters.pdf (2.4 MB)

Dark matter : reactivating myth to visually express the existential experience of 'The Change'

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posted on 2023-05-26, 06:31 authored by Mendham, JF
My investigation is concerned with developing a visual language to express the existential transition from fertile womanhood. As Germaine Greer points out, whilst a vast array of medical material on this transition exists, we hardly ever hear the voices of women on the experience. This experience remains undescribed and invisible except for rare voices such as Simone de Beauvoir in her study The Second Sex, Doris Lessing in the literary arts, and Rosemarie Trockel in the visual arts. The strange phenomenon of invisibility of archetypal experience such as this in our contemporary language is related by Carl Jung, Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, and Suzi Gablik as symptomatic of our cultural constructs that view humans as apart from nature, and perpetuates a fragmented, abstracted and rationalistic way of seeing the world. My investigation re-engages with this experience of transformation through appropriating the ancient vehicle of myth which traditionally gives form and meaning to archetypal experience, and inherently affirms connection between humans and the rest of the natural world. The mythological symbols which emerge in my art-making mostly have their origins in my Western cultural heritage and include the symbol of woman as vessel/grail, the moon, and the horn. Classical mythological figures such as Hekate are also referenced in my work. The artists who contextualise this research draw on myth, or archetypal form, generate works from the body, and/or contribute to a dialogue on feminine experience. At a more essential level they re-affirm connection with our bodies, heritage, and the world of nature including our ancient and primal selves. These artists include: Rosemarie Trockel, Kiki Smith, Antony Gormley, Louise Bourgeois, Anselm Kiefer and Bronwyn Oliver. Although much of my studio-based research has been conducted through drawings, the final works find resolution as sculptural objects. This submission presents a mythical landscape of metamorphosing object sculptures in a darkened space. Lighting is used to partially illuminate the sculptures and generate shadows that reveal other dimensions to the space and works. Each work describes something of liminal experience and is bound to the other works through repetition and variants of form, shape and pattern. This investigation contributes to the field through redressing the silencing of women's voice on the experience of transformation beyond fertile womanhood, by re-engaging with modes of thinking and expression that remain undervalued in our contemporary world, and through contributing to an emergent voice that is concerned with the connectivity of humans with the rest of nature.


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