Stories of Origin
Migration has been a constant narrative thread in the McLafferty family’s itinerant history. From Ireland to Scotland, and now, here in Australia, the complexities of female identity and the affects of cultural diaspora form as the subjectivity of this artistic research project, entitled, Stories of Origin.
A series of documentary photographs of the Calton area of Glasgow , a destination for Irish migrants to Scotland at the turn of the 20th century, and analogue, black and white portraits and digital, colour portraits of my daughter, taken over a twelve year period [2001- 2013] fuse to challenge religious and social identity politics, common to women of the Irish diaspora. Embedded with mythology and semiology the hybrid portraits, laced with a Marian metaphor, recontextualise the relationship between form and space. And at the same time, deconstruct the central myth that locates the feminine as domestic and private, and the masculine as heroic and public.
Through a process of overlay, the space of representation navigates history, time and place to reimagine public space as a place of negotiation. As a body of work, the images provide an aesthetic framework that questions not only identity and belonging, but asks: how can we as a creative community redefine spaces of difference, to read, not as other, but as a celebration of Irish culture and diversity as a whole?
The images are framed to offer a visual rethinking of who ‘we’ are in relation to the spaces we occupy. In doing so, the stories of the past become the stories of the present. As homage to the generations of Irish women whose identities were formed in this place, the portraits re-inscribe the meaning of connection by rupturing traditional gender stereotypes. As cultural theorist, Nikos Papastergiadis says: ‘The power of art, in part, is fuelled by its ability to rip meaning from one context and insert it into another.’ And, it is within the context of image production that the origins of this story are shaped and tested.
Cringe, Cringe - 'I am an artist - it all just comes out and I work through my body and it's all just subjective' mmmmmm NO - unfortunately it's not just subjective, if you want to go beyond the coffee table that is.
If you are serious about finding your own unique visual voice and wish to impart some kind of meaning not only into your work, but, to also give the viewer something that they didn't have before they looked and engaged with your work - you will seriously need to connect with art history and in doing so, you will also need to take on the theory boys and girls, alleluia! Go theory girls I say.
One of the best challenges for the creative researcher, in my opinion, is to really take the might of theory on: CHALLENGE IT - SUBVERT IT - RIPP IT APART - and if you can - try and get your head around some of the over burdened rhetoric that is out there - if you research and really begin to understand your area of interest you will find the literature and will be drawn to a style that suits your needs.
In my area of interest ; Migration in Practice, Nikos Papastergiadis is one of my favourites. Not only is he a fab writer but his command of language and imparting his ideas through text is brilliant. There are many like him and I shall endeavor to share them with you as the blog progresses.
But, let's not forget the important role of theory - conversations - thinking through making - well, to do a grand job one must find a way of not illustrating a theoretical proposition, but, more importantly the creative practitioner will embody the theory and in doing so he/she will test and challenge it through a process of practice - easier said than done you are saying - IT CAN BE DONE -
A call to action is required dear researchers in the visual arts - yes we orbit a tried and tested tradition that is called a DISCIPLINE - we owe it to ourselves and our audience - and don't forget all the artists who have gone before us to Valhalla - we owe to art itself - its history needs contemporary practitioners to man up and do a good job - contribute - tell your story and that of others - after all its not rocket science. mmmm Maybe it is?
A gentle and easy way to get your head around the anomaly surrounding the union between practice and theory is easily examined by taking on the might of Colour Theory. Every artist has explored colour theory at some point in their career - well - here I go again - as a painter let it be noted that there is not a day goes by where I do not learn something new about colour and so the theory continues.
Munsell, Goethe, Itten - we have all either read or explored their take on colour theory - what it is - what it means and how we can use it to establish a thorough understanding of the theory behind it.
Yes - the theory behind it - not until the artist sets up a palette - I advocate a limited palette - will they not only begin to understand colour theory, but by ' doing' it they will embody the experience of colour - its nuances - its properties - its texture - its transparency - its opacity.
The key words here are experience - embody and most importantly - perception. We all see - feel and perceive colour through our bodies, meaning that we as individual will process and react to colour differently. The great news is that by committing to exploring colours unique properties and characteristics we shall not only develop an innate sense of colour - we will feel it and in doing so understand it implicitly.
A lifetime of colour engagement, love it or hate it will give the artist - painter bodily knowledge and a thorough understanding of what colour can do and what it can say. All of this embodied knowledge and experience can be converted into works of art that speak,and can be read through a narrative of colour and spatial relationships. Just like words colour talks.
After of all of that - head to the studio, roll your sleeves up and put on your rubber or plastic gloves and start exploring colour - and don't forget to notate your findings - thoughts and document your sources of course. Happy days are ones filled with colour.