Gazing Where the Lilies Blow
8th – 27th March, Linton & Kay Gallery, Perth.
'Gazing Where the Lilies Blow’ is a heartfelt poem in colour celebrating the wonderful diversity, depth of character and impassioned lives of women that I admire from history, mythology and literature. Each speaks to me of the struggles and motivations of distinctive lives framed within a time utterly different from my own.
For as far back as I can remember I have been painting portraits of Joan of Arc. Her courage, passion and determination are qualities that I greatly admire. Her inherent connection to the larger mysteries of life and fortitude under the pressure of an insurmountable force make her in my eyes an icon, a role model and a heroine. At a young age I learned that she and I share an important date; May 30th. On this day in 1431 her time on this earth came to an end, almost 550 years later on that day mine began. To me this coincidence forms a link between this incredible woman and myself, and connects me to her compelling and sacred story, diverse from my life as it may be.
Joan, like so many of the other women represented in this exhibition have not or could not (Eurydice, The Lady of Shalott) leave any visual representation of themselves for posterity. We know much about them; their names, deeds, and in some cases their own words which have been laid down (as the in record of Joan’s trial) but their physical likenesses do not exist. In contrast to these great women of legend only a few generations separate us from the women in cabinet cards passed down from the Victorian era. These are not the women of storybooks but that isn’t to say that their lives have any less meaning. These women are no more or less real than the power hungry Matilda, the creative but self-serving Marie Antoinette or the brilliant politician Cleopatra apart from the fact that they remain today only through the photographic images they left of themselves; images disconnected from the stories of their lives and separated from that very basic source of identity; their own names.
It is in the spirit of remembrance that I have taken a collection of cabinet card photos as a starting point and layered upon each Victorian sitter the symbols and elements which I feel best describe the famous women that I am attempting to portray. I am not a copyist, nor do I seek to adhere to a strict guide of historical dress or architecture. I do not wish to paint a Victorian face as it appears on the card but to reveal the face I see in my mind’s eye and endeavor to create a world of symbolism in which my sitter, the named and unnamed woman exist side by side, each a part of and empowered by the other.
Every personality portrayed in this exhibition holds some connection to my own life and taken together form a portrait of a very different kind; that of one woman who’s life has been inspired by many others.