Offerings to the goddesses
This will be the first time I have written about
a series of work that had yet to be completed. 'Offerings to the Goddesses'
is only a beginning and may even lead me back to Crete to do further research
on the Minoan culture before it is completed. Within my work process,
research forms an important part, but I research visually and/or intuitively
as I search for particular images especially signs and symbols I can associate
with and feel comfortable using. I felt particularly drawn to the symbols
I found in Crete, such as the dolphin and the snake, since I had in my
past work incorporated them as motifs before I’d learnt of their
connection with the Minoan culture. I t was deeply exciting to; to discover
this connection I had with images painted and carved thousands of years
ago. The signs and symbols of ancient Crete surviving and continuing the
presence of a female culture give me a sense of my own roots for though
their culture is not my own, I can still identify with it and relate its
experienced with my present situations a 20th century woman.
The original meaning of some of these symbols may have been lost but I
have discovered that on a personal level they have an incredible power
and life for me. Their impact was all the more powerful for seeing them
in the setting of Crete where the palaces and shrines seemed deliberately
paced to draw attention to those features of the landscape that most closely
resembled the female form, hills suggesting breasts, mountains forming
clefts fertile bellies and cunts. This vision I had of a matriarchal culture’s
harmony with the land was also tied in with my reading of ‘The Paradise
Papers’ by Merlin stone which had make me understand the role patriarchal
religions played in the eventual suppression of the matriarchal systems
of belief in the mother/earth and moon tying in with the cycle of birth,
life and death. I became committed to looking at whatever artefacts from
past matriarchal cultures I could find.
My past work dealt chiefly with how women’s image could be manipulated
by a patriarchal society and in my most extensive series to date, Elizabeth1,
I examined hat the symbols found in her portraits were used to protect
her public image and served to strengthen her political power. As I look
back at this series now, I see that I was attempting to rationalise the
use of these symbols and subvert and reveal their role in the denial of
Elizabeth1’s (and our) woman hood. My approach to working with symbols
is different now as I find those inspired by matriarchal cultured are
more celebratory. These symbols are derived from the idea of offering
of giving which I find more positive, and my initial work in this series
is based on a case of objects in a museum in Crete that were originally
tokens of offering to the snake goddess, consisting of shells and ceramics.
In tem I found a symbolism that strengthens my trust in my own subconscious.
For though I don’t really know what they mean yet, I have a faith
in their importance and their continuing meaning fullness to me. It is
this kind of blind faith that really excites me about working in art.
I feel linked with the women surrealists of the 20th century in this way,
women like Eileen Agar and Dora Carrington. I feel I work in a similar
way and I want to carry on where they left off in the history of 20th
Century women’s creative work. However as a women living in the
eighties, I seek to express myself also in terms of feminism and through
my art bring surrealism and feminism together.
In the video ’My Hands’ I did a piece that came directly from
my initial spiritual experience of Crete and the memories and work that
I derived from it. In the sequence titled 'An Offering' I used sea-shells
and stones collected from the shore of Malia beach near the palace of
Malia. In the video I present the collection of objects as an offering
to the goddesses of the past as a tribute to them. It also serves as a
personal ritual that connects me with those matriarchal societies whose
harmony with the land, and achievement of ecological balance id so important
to me. I also seek to incorporate the religion and spiritual aspects of
their 'cult of the hearth’ I my paintings, by using the symbol of
the double-headed axe, whose potential for violence was understood but
whose power to corrupt was acknowledged and resisted. This insight has
made me acknowledge my own destructiveness as well as my own creativity,
giving me the responsibility over my own conscience.
I am aware of my audience and their interpretation of the work. I realise
that I paint from a highly personal, almost idiosyncratic may of seeking
to deal with my journey through life and coming to terms with myself.
However I do feel that my struggle has a lot in common with women’s
experience in general. The series’ Offerings to the Goddesses’
as I mentioned earlier, is just a beginning, and I envisage it will take
a long time to carry through. My work is a fight to come to terms with
living within a patriarchal society that devalues and trivializes women’s
culture. I seek to resolve this violence and debasement by celebrating
women’s cultures and appreciating their efforts to protect the earth
by a spiritual tapping into its strength.