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Silent witnesses : re-interpreting the still life tradition

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Watson, SF (2010) Silent witnesses : re-interpreting the still life tradition. Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

This research investigates how simple domestic objects can be employed as
visual metaphors for vulnerability, entrapment and unfulfilled expectations
experienced by many women who take on primary domestic roles. In its use of
domestic objects as visual metaphors, the project locates itself within the context
of the still life genre but at the same time seeks to re-interpret this tradition in a
way which makes it relevant to contemporary concerns.
The exegesis contextualises the project through discussion of what the domestic
object traditionally symbolised in the history of Western art, specifically looking
at the still life and narrative genre painting which used the domestic object to
deliver moralising and ideological messages. The discussion then focuses, on
artists who in the twentieth century re-deployed domestic objects in other ways,
wresting them from their traditional meanings. Of particular relevance to the
project is how artists moved away from painterly depictions of domestic objects
to assimilating the ephemera of daily life into their work and also how they have
invested them with meanings which challenge the traditional concept of home as
a safe and nurturing environment. In this regard, the artists who have been most
relevant to the project have been feminist artists such as Donna Marcus,
Vivienne Binns, Helen Fuller, Judy Chicago, Faith Ringgold, Miriam Schapiro
and Louise Bourgeois. These artists reference domestic objects as an appropriate
visual vehicle to tell their stories, seek equality and reconcile their identities as
both women and artists.
The outcomes of studio-based investigations are encapsulated in a suite of mixed
media artworks that explore different ways of engaging with domestic objects.
The materials include paper and glass to reference vulnerability and fragility,
while all the objects have been made using recycled materials and collage to
invoke memory of a lived experience. Everyday acts of sewing and patchwork
are employed to parallel the tedium, repetition and the entrapment of domestic
obligations.
The use of symbolism and metaphor connect my work to the historic tradition of
still life; the use of found objects, materials and process connect it to the many
conceptual and material changes that have affected the genre over the last one
hundred years. Whilst the project acknowledges that the still life does not hold
the same cultural importance that it once had, it does, however, suggest that this
tradition can be re-interpreted and re-worked to express current day concerns,
particularly those pertaining to the experience of women and the domestic
sphere. As such, it builds on the works of feminist artists such as Chicago and
Schapiro but, at the same time, goes beyond their concerns of celebrating the
female crafts.

Item Type: Thesis (Research Master)
Keywords: Still-life painting, Domestic space in art, Women in art
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2010 the Author

Additional Information:

Available for use in the Library and copying in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968, as amended. Thesis (MFA)--University of Tasmania, 2010. Includes bibliographical references. The domestic object as condenser of meaning -- Art and the domestic object -- Context. Part 1: Still life and real life. Part 2: Feminism and the use of the domestic object in contemporary art -- Studio practice -- Conclusion and significance of the project

Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2015 23:36
Last Modified: 30 May 2016 22:41
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