An exploration of the role of women artists in the past.
Commenting on those absent from art history, the role of the female artist and the assumption of women as models in art, the aim of this work is for the artist to take full control of her own self-image and the way in which the female form is viewed within an art context.
The use of drapery attracts, allures and satisfies the audience in the beauty of the luxurious fabrics and interesting folds. The suggestion of covering/revealing the figure is reminiscent of paintings from the past, but does so without the need for ‘displaying’ women.
The bodiless figures, that are easily recognisable as female, make it clear that the artist of this ‘self-portrait’ series is a female. Focusing on the role of the model as artist and artist as model in the context of women artists from the past, the ‘absent’ model from the paintings (the artist) indicates the feeling of being misplaced, ignored and neglected. Each of the pieces in the series is named after some of the women artists that have inspired and influenced the practice this year (Rose Garrad, Marina Abromavich, Paula Rego and Louise Bourgeois).
The process of making the images involves directing a photo shoot where the artist is draped in fabric to form the look of a traditional flowing dress. The image that best depicts the figure how the artist wants it to be displayed can be chosen from the photos, leaving Kate with full control of the overall image, unlike in the past when the woman would have been pictured for the male gaze.
Each figure is scaled to be life-size making the figures appear more present as though they could physically be there, drawing more attention to the person being absent. They are then arranged to be part of an overall installation situated in the historical context of the School of Art’s 125 year old corridors. The spacing within the installation and around each figure allows the absence to be exaggerated and encourages the viewer to fill in the gaps between each piece. Ultimately this should create the illusion of old history paintings found in national galleries that traditionally women would not have been allowed to paint.
The basement installation is influenced by Paula Rego’s time as an artist in residence at the National gallery, where she described herself as bringing the pieces from the gallery down to her basement studio to physically work from them. Paula is a direct influence from Rego’s painting Joseph’s Dream which was inspired by a painting that was initially painted by a man of a man. She changed this to show a woman painting the man, which Kate has now made as a woman painting herself.
The top floor work stands alone literally in the image, but also without the help of the series. The length of the figure mirrors the surrounding windows and is supported by the sculpture on the stairs, which shows a woman with missing limbs and head. Also the stairwell allows the work to be seen from every floor, so although shown separately they are a constant visual in that part of the school.
Stark white canvases were chosen over naturally bare canvases to give the colours more impact, which reinforces the strength of the ‘model’ and the idea of empowerment for female artists. The colour of the background being the same as the ‘would be figure’ behind the fabric emphasises the idea of the absence of the person and supports the feminist theory of women artists being absent physically and theoretically in the past.