The Migrant Woman Project 2018: British, Scottish and Irish women meet to discuss re-telling their personal stories of migration.
The Book of Ruth: a migrant woman who saved a nation, which forms as part of the Old Testament provides a historical touchstone for a group of migrant women, located in Newcastle, NSW to retell their stories of migration. The content of the book, and the fact that this story has for centuries travelled across and through nations and border states, provides a legitimate and all encompassing context for importance of migrant women's stories to be told, shared and received.
The mantra, your story matters aims to engage the women in a dialogue that moves between the past and the present so as to illuminate the here and now - allowing the women an authentic voice that speaks of their experiences through a multi-sensorial and experiential lens. The collaborative process will find form in the shape of: text and poetry alongside an interdisciplinary approach to making that will translate, and at the same time document each individual story into a comprehensive visual language.
Traditional and new technologies, engendered materials as well as everyday, manmade materials will come into play to develop the experimentation that will frame the collaborative process into resolved works of art that celebrate an aesthetics of migration. The works will encompass a series of sensory applications that might be classed as 'women's work', creating a contemporary and dialogical space for the project to develop both visually and textually.
At its core, my art practice explores the transitory and embodied aspects of migration from a perspective that considers personal experience and a legacy of an itinerant family history whose cultural identity is defined by the Irish Diaspora. As a contemporary migrant woman the movement between the Northern and Southern hemispheres, as a lived experience, provides a sentient touchstone that shapes my ideas, practice and research interests to date. Defining one’s sense of belonging and the never-ending feeling of longing to belong is an ongoing temporal dilemma that has yet to be resolved artistically and emotionally.
I am particularly interested in how material language, the rituals and traditions of Western Art’s history has the capacity to articulate, personal and physical spatial experiences into contemporary art objects. As a condition of migration, decoding the complexities of one language into that of another for the purpose of operative communication has conditioned and maintained my deepest curiosity; discovery is made tangible through the process of making.
My art-making practice is interdisciplinary. I employ the vehicle of abstract painting and experimental drawing, digital photography and video installation to examine spaces that exist in-between: continents, cultures, the here and now, the here and there. A personal painting and drawing methodology that uses wet and dry mediums, hand made, knitted and woven surfaces and materials are employed to reflect a sensory aesthetic that is engendered and culturally specific. Overall, my art practice is fluid, spontaneous and intuitive, allowing for an open-ended negotiation between processes that find form and at the same time inform one’s understanding of the space that exists between making and thinking.
As a condition of practice, my work explores the concept of liminal space, which is described by anthropologist Victor Turner, as ‘a place that is not a place and a time that is not a time’. The implicit ambiguity in this analogy succinctly frames the persistent challenge I encounter as an artist - how to effectually/articulately translate the felt experiences of migration into an accessible aesthetic for ready consumption by proponents of contemporary art.
Below is an outline of the proposal for the drawing project, AM739 - alongside this documentation is the image, 'Rooted Elsewhere', 2014 which provided the platform for what was to become a national/international interdisciplinary - drawing and painting in an expanded field inquiry. My original intention was for this project to travel - evolving and dissolving on its journey, wherever that may be. So far the project will be travelling to Melbourne where I take up the artist in residence [November] position at Boxhill Community Art Centre this year. My hope is for this project to travel further afield to Scotland - I have applied for another residency at Hospitalfied, which would allow the project to reinvent itself within a Scottish culture context -I am excited about how this transnational opportunity would impact the works material and aesthetic identity. Fingers crossed that the project makes the grade - plan B is to go to Scotland anyway - and do a short term studio rental - but lets see what happens.
Drawing into Painting #1 ‘Rooted Elsewhere’, Charcoal, Graphite, Gesso and Oil Paint on Khozo Paper, 180x157cm, 2014.
Question: As a global contemporary phenomenon, migration can be said to a transient – cross cultural and dis-placing experience. Given this, how can the artist recreate ‘drawn’ spaces of intersection that capture felt experience, the flow and mobility of movement that considers the influence of the ‘local’ and its material identity as a ‘modal of expression’ and explains a sense of belonging.
Summary of Content:
Project Title: AM 730.
Subject Matter: Migration.
Context: Fieldwork – A Personal Exploration of Movement between Space and Place.
Methodology: Multi-Disciplinary - Intuitive.
Concept: Translation – Felt Experience.
Media: Drawing – Printmaking – Painting –
Medium: Wet and dry, traditional and non-traditional mediums and technologies.
Materials: A combination of man/hand-made/organic and everyday drawing materials. Including but not exclusive too: graphite – charcoal - cotton thread – muslin - khozo paper – linen – plaster – wax - bubble wrap - paint and pigment.
Visual Concept: Develop Patterns and Systems.
 Nikos Papastergiadis, http://www.artsjournal.com/culturegrrl/200606lee_rosenbaum-html, Sage online Journal, January 16, 2016, 11.20am, Abstract.
The drawing project, Am 730 is a process driven investigation that examines the artist’s movement between place and space [Scotland and Australia], to find a modality of belonging [or not] through the act of drawing that considers the implicit nature one’s everyday ‘locality’ and the material data that resides therein.
A primary aim of the projects artistic research is to deconstruct the material qualities of the traditional drawing surface and in doing so develop new material methodologies that speak of artistic practice and production in the context of research. In terms of studio practice the activity of drawing forms as a living process that influences visual knowing, which, through an experimental and interdisciplinary approach to drawing, new spaces of negotiation are revealed.
The project’s pictorial objective is to engage in fieldwork to explore new material possibilities that link concept and process to the development of a series of works [in progress] that are reflective of the artists evolving and dissolving relationship with form and space. Translating space as felt experience in this instance plays a vital role in shaping the drawings surface identity that then informs forms the ‘aesthetic form of knowing’.
Aims and Objectives:
Deconstruct the material qualities of traditional spaces of negotiation, the drawing surface to develop new material methodologies.
Record the differences between drawing inside and outside of the studio environment.
Record how the local and everyday space and place of the residency/landscape impacts the drawing process.
Employ visual/ sensory modalities that link the role of materiality to the process and practice of drawing.
Pursue a tacit approach to ‘drawing’ that questions the history, tradition and practice of drawing to explore new possibilities that contribute to expanding meaning and understanding.
 Graeme Sullivan, ed., Art Practice as Research: Inquiry in Visual Arts, Sage Publications, 2010, California, p42.
Materiality plays a key role in this painting project that aims to reconstruct and deconstruct the space and place of the painting surface. In this experiment, I used a 120x120cm square of Belgian Linen, a traditional painting surface that was treated in the following way:
A personal experience of migration continues to act as an emotive narrative in my art practice. I plan to develop a studio based research project that further examines the impact of migration through the activity of drawing from a discordant cultural perspective. An Anglo/Australian position frames this inquiry and will explore the sensory side effects of mass migration through an engendered lens.
The transitory and complex nature of the migratory experience is recontextualised through an interchange of everyday activities, such as knitting and weaving, which in turn provide alternative surfaces to draw on and to rethink how meaning can be embedded in both the act and materiality of drawing.
A cultural ‘sensoaesthetic’ [Miodownik & Laughlin 2015] is conceptually woven into the works to further narrate the migrant story and experience, creating an emotional and physical imprint through the language of line, tone and pattern making. In doing so, migration in practice is composed to read as felt experience, which in effect contributes to material cultural and political dialogue.
A series of visual pathways trace the transient stories of the migrant route through surface sgraffito that communicate personal and cultural topographies. Making connections between personal experience and contemporary art discourse is intended to challenge the traditional value systems that locate the empirical and local as other.
The drawing project AM 730 is a practice led visual research project that will explore, through the materiality of traditional and non traditional drawing surfaces, the act of drawing as a positive activity that influences visual knowing. Finding meaning therefore is firmly located in the materiality/sensoaesthetic practice of drawing and not in its objectivity. The project is time based [730 days] and is shaped through a multifactorial lens where three strands of investigation: studio practice as a research, interdisciplinary material collaboration and the creation of an on line archive fuse to deliver a comprehensive body of work that is aesthetically and intellectually unified in its pursuit for contributing to knowledge building, finding meaning and understanding.
Miodownik, M. Laughlin, L. November 2015. The Institute of Making Blog. Available From:
Project Title: Why did you make that and call it a painting?
Subject Matter: Painting in the expanded field.
Genre: ‘Conditional Abstraction’.
Art Historical Context: Faktura.
Visual Concept: Contrast.
Methodology: Experimental: Think-Make-Reflect.
Medium/Materials: A combination of alternative and traditional surfaces and strainers: Cast/Woven/Knitted/Khozo Paper/ Polythene. Including traditional and non-traditional materials, mediums and technologies.
Visual Concepts: Texture – Light – Size - Scale – Temperature – Perspective – Space – Colour - Form.
Outcome: Indeterminate abstract paintings.