->

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.

Diane Roberts, 1988