Opening comments by Dr. Annette Iggulden
In this exciting exhibition the artist, Wendy Murray, tips her hat or acknowledges the legacy and importance of art history (the three graces) and of women’s history – bringing some of the significant issues into a contemporary focus and the realm of her own experience.
Several years ago I went to a conference called the “F Word”, a dirty word now commonly associated with Feminism. Yet Wendy and I agree that we as women see Feminism as a way of recognizing equality of rights for men and women, an equality of rights for all human beings. As women artists we can only speak from our own experience as women.
In her book Art and Feminism: Peggy Phelan points out that in both art and feminism there is on the part of the artist “A ferocious desire for independence… a determination to survive at whatever fragile level you can”. You will recognize that quality in the works of this exhibition “Unraveling”.
But we might ask, Unraveling what? A very intriguing title, suggestive of times when we have to take a pause and reconsider who and where we are and how we got there; to work backwards through time to make some sense of how we arrived where we are in the present.
The word unraveling also makes me think of the physical act, often seen in the past (of some generations) of our mothers and grandmothers unraveling thread or wool of old jumpers and sundry other domestic objects to remake the old into something new, something different. It often took time and patience untangling and teasing out the knots before the real work could begin. The act of untangling or unraveling can be difficult and tedious – it requires patience and determination, before or as the new creative work unfolds.
The act of unraveling also reminds me of a story from our distant past: the story or Ariadne and the labyrinth or maze. Ariadne was a mythical female figure who helped the Greek heroic figure of Theseus by giving him a ball of thread to unwind or unravel as he entered the dark depths of the labyrinth in search of the monster, half animal, half human figure of the minitaur (a figure made famous by Picasso and his struggles with his own male sexuality). She, Ariadne, gave her ball of thread to the male hero so he could find his way out of the complex maze od pathways and dead ends in the underground maze; the labyrinth, back into the light and freedom by following the thread back from where his journey began. This story symbolizes our need at times, to penetrate, or enter deeply into our complex, sometimes darkened past, with all it’s difficulties and joys and to return to the place we began with a greater degree of understanding or enlightenment. This ancient ritual helps us to imagine the difficult journey which traditionally has represented a spiritual death, a death perhaps of rigid, fixed ways of thinking and behaving and of resurrection, or personal transformation and an opening up to new possibilities.
Looking at Wendy’s work you will see how it has developed from her thoughts and feelings into a two dimensional form: linocut prints on paper, to 3 dimensional tactile forms of sculpture. But there is more (and I won’t reveal too much and spoil the show of what is still to come) but from these visual representations of prints and sculpture, Wendy will enter the realm of performance, where she, the artist, makes her body convey the message. The body/she becomes the art work. Performance art is disconcerting for some as suddenly the canvas moves and we are confronted to react with nervousness, curiosity and shock or pleasure. Often the understanding of what the artist wants to convey comes later in the quietness of our own solitude or in discussion with others.
But there is still more to come today for her performance as ritual requires your participation – please don’t run for the door – for this act reminds us that humans need a sense of community to belong and be part of something bigger than our individual selves. It also reminds us of the power of human history and the creation of myths, in this case, of death and rebirth.
Wendy will take you into a space, reminiscent of the Catholic Mass, where, by eating bread and drinking wine, the body and blood of Christ is symbolized and we are transformed or renewed. This age-old ritual act has been manifest in different forms in different cultures since the beginning of recorded human history. So, with my congratulations to Wendy for her exhibition “Unraveling” let the performance “le petit mort” begin.
copyright © 2015 Wendy Murray