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Exhibition 2016: "Consequences"

at Tuggeranong Art Gallery: June-July 2016

Works: oil on canvas, collage, unframed, sizes approximately 1000 x 750 cm

This paintings for this exhibition were started in the 1980s. They were ideologically sound depictions of my feminist beliefs. But there was something missing. I had forgotten about the time when I was an abused daughter and wife, so the paintings lacked a personal connection with my traumatic past. I viewed them as limited, malnourished and unfinished. Nevertheless I framed them, with the intention of exhibiting them if there was an opportunity. Then I forgot about them again. Over the years, I would catch a glimpse of the carefully framed works as I moved from one house to another. I knew I would finish them one day, but I was never quite ready. This year, after two family reunions, the past became fresh again. I was motivated to complete the paintings and to express how I really felt about being a victim of domestic violence. I had finally arrived at, and have now depicted, my own truth, without holding back and without sanitising the art into social acceptability. I took the pictures out of their frames, virtually setting them free, and also myself. The exhibition "Consequences" is that completion. In conjunction with the exhibition, I released my autobiography, titled "Made to be broken" which was written in the 1980s. It is the written version of the events depicted in the paintings which is detailed on the books section of this website.

1. "Speak but can't see — see but can't speak"

The man cannot see but can speak and the woman can see but cannot speak. He uses honeyed words to entrap and control her and when this doesn't work he resorts to violence. Because he can speak, he defends his wrongdoing by blaming her. She accepts this as she is gagged and can't speak for herself. But she sees all and knows all. The woman's life has been wasted. Behind broken windows, she bears children she cannot care for. She is torn apart by the relentless impact of male sexuality. Shredded and bleeding she fertilises the land until she is exhausted and the land in turn becomes shredded, dry and lifeless. This is the dance of death between the sexes. He refuses to relinquish his power over at least one person in his life, his woman.

2. "Our self portrait"

The woman who is torn between her passion for her art and her responsibility for her children. Her conflict causes her to withdraw from them and she gazes down at them dispassionately whilst planning her next work. One of the little girls tries to please her with an offering of flowers, believing that appeasement is better than suffering at the hands of angry others. The middle little girl, has resorted to begging, playing on her mother's guilt. The third little girl remembers how her mother was abused and she holds up her hand telling the abusers to stop. As an artist the woman is naked before the canvas which brings truth to what she paints. Because she is a survivor of domestic violence, it expresses itself through her art.

3. "Do you like my little picture?"

The male artist has produced a vacuous nothing on canvas accompanied by a flowery incomprehensible artists' statement in an attempt to reassure the public that the emperor really has clothes on. The little girl has dashed off a mistress piece. She is not a career artist. Her amusement springs from her independance. She does not have to wine and dine with famous curators, critics and art syncophants. Her time is her own and her inspiration comes from within, not from the need to be seen as successful. And because of this she makes art that transcends the moneyed art market.

4. "The watcher watches whom or which"

The woman dreams of romance, unaware of her reality. The watcher with the spyglass could be obsessed with anything in the room. The question is what are his intentions? Is he going to steal the baby while the mother is distracted? Is he going to kill her or her phantom lover? Or, is he really a harmless butterfly collector? Meanwhile the woman dreams on.

5. "Shield of Medusa"

This image of Medusa is a variation of the old myth. Medusa's face is obscured by a shield so she has lost the power to turn men into stone if they look at her face. However, her long snaky locks have escaped its confines. The woman has been thrown to the ground by the man. His intentions are clear. Medusa stands between the woman and the man, protecting her and threatening him. So he is forced to protect himself.

6. "War is a trading game"

The man has silenced the woman before beheading her. He is trading her head for a gun. Trafficing in women and arms is a trade between men which is underwritten by perpetual war. Both the young girl and the old woman cry out against this injustice. The camouflage in the background morphs into penises, which morphs into razor wire which contains the women.

7. "There is a crack in everything "

Leonard Cohen wrote "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in". The sheet the woman is holding has the image of a male symbol which is cracked open. At her feet a scene from Pink Floyd's "The wall" is reproduced. The jigsaw represents the little pieces of our lives which may or may not come together. The mythical dragon represents an ancient time when life was not so complicated, when good and evil was recognisable and the princess was always rescued by the brave knight.

8. "Past, present, future"

The woman has escaped her castle and her chastity belt and has beheaded the knight on her way out. She was just another victim of domestic violence. She ignores the baby which is held frantically in front of her. She has a life to make and the beauty of the flowers which surround her will be her guide towards better things. But her memories remain and she is frozen in time in between hating the past and thinking about tomorrow.

9. "Birth defect"

She has given birth in a bed of razor wire surrounded by masked strangers. The birth defect is her drugged submission to medical authority. The baby deliverer holds up his trophy in triumph. The mother is unable to defend herself or claim her baby. The image is surrounded by tattered dirty bandages, symbolising the institutional greed for power without the accompanying duty of care.

10. "Boys will be soldiers"

While women have to hide, while men are made into soldiers, there will be no peace. War is a man's game. It starts with wooden guns given to little boys. It starts with their carefully nutured aggression, their bullying and their bad behaviour which is tolerated because "boys will be boys". And when boys become men the process is complete. They are sent off to war with the command to kill women and children first and if enemy soldiers show up, kill them too.

11. "A stitch for daddy"

Women who are torn during childbirth are often sewn back together again more tightly than is necessary for healing. The doctors used to say "a stitch for daddy", meaning that the tighter birth canal would enhance male pleasure. It did not matter to the male doctors that women consequently suffered ill health, pain and sexual displeasure.