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Wallflower : an exploration of female self-representation


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Porteous, MMR 1999 , 'Wallflower : an exploration of female self-representation', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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My project is an investigation, both theoretical and practical, of a mode of self-portraiture and autobiography which represents the self as a process, rather than as a fixed identity. It consists of a written thesis and an installation of drawings. The starting point was a fascination with works by four women - Gwen John, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Jean Rhys and Louise Bourgeois. These works all draw on self-portraiture and autobiography. A common motif in the selected works by these women is the use of a room to represent the self. The walls suggest a restrictive version of femininity through which images of repressed experience emerge.
The works embody the inadequacy of traditional modes of representing and speaking the self to represent female experiences; and they also deal with the struggle with repressive versions of 'femininity'. They develop forms which represent a self as a process - not fully in the symbolic order of language and the mirror image, but disrupted by the unconscious, open to dreams and the body. They develop visual and textual strategies which catch the viewer up in this process.
I have drawn on Kristeva's concept of feminism as a signifying space to argue that this representation can be seen as a liberating one. Language and art become possible sites for exploring new ways of representing female subjectivity in which individual experiences of fear, anger and desire can be felt pushing through the symbolic order, and the language and conventions which seek to repress and contain them.
My method has been to make a close comparative textual analysis of the selected works, and to relate their formal strategies to contemporary theories of subjectivity and representation. I have also made a series of drawings which attempt to illustrate the formal structure of the works, and record my unconscious encounter with them. Part of the intention of the project was to find a way in which these two processes could be unified.
The final result is a 'reading' room. The drawings use imagery drawn from the works, and from the lives of the artists, emerging from beneath a formal pattern symbolic of femininity. The room encloses the viewer and a narrative is suggested, but not stated.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Porteous, MMR
Keywords: Women and art, Women artists
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Copyright 1999 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (MFA)--University of Tasmania, 1999. Includes bibliographical references

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