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Wallflower : an exploration of female self-representation

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

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Abstract

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, Morag
Keywords: Women and art, Women artists
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

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 (M.F.A.)--University of Tasmania, 1999. Includes bibliographical references

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