From Joanna Crichlow's Blueprint series
Perhaps the artists' most inevitable subject is herself. After all, we map our experiences and react to the world around us through the prism of who we are, what we are, what we have experienced, what we have not. Art could be a record of someone, through the medium of recording something.
One thing artists Brianna McCarthy and Joanna Crichlow have in common is a direct engagement with the body in their work. This is, in fact, an engagement with their own bodies and, by extension, an engagement with the implications of their personal spaces in society.
In a sense, all art is an engagement with the body: produced by the body, often depicting the body, reflecting the body via inanimate forms (mountainous landscapes, empty rooms). For if art reflects the artist, then she must admit that she is ultimately a body on a journey to something.
"I juxtaposed images of mannequins with images of me," Crichlow said on Saturday night, explaining her process at a discussion held at Alice Yard, Woodbrook. "The work started as collage and I digitally enhanced them. I also started using wax and I wanted to try different methods."
"I also looked at ideas of fairy tales," she said. The fairy tales which perpetuate stereotypes of human conduct and, specifically, gender tropes.
For Brianna McCarthy, there was a focus on form which lead to a more personal exploration.
"I was fascinated by how you could depict depth through simple lines," she said. "My work is very personal. I make myself in many ways."
Detail from a Zine by Brianna McCarthy
"I have this idea that things don't need to match. I want things to be a little stark like when the blue does not match the purple."
The discussion of the work triggered strong debate among the audience over the issue of why women are required, as artists, to battle with certain expectations, expectations which do not appear to be placed on the shoulders of men. Why is it that the work or the gestures of the artist become so embroiled in notions about gender and in stereotype?
"The issue is about control over the value and meaning of those gestures," artist Christopher Cozier observed.
The discussion on Saturday, which was a very heated but fruitful one, also embraced complex issues of what it means to ascribe limits to what the artist produces. Can too much context narrow the scope of the interpretation of the work? Can a lack of context equally be an inadequate means of engaging with it? The issues points to more political things like: who owns art? who says what art is? Potentially troubling questions which, however, do not distract from what McCarthy called the ultimate "impact" of the art. For the art communicates on several levels: triggering debate and triggering pleasure.
CHECK OUT Brianna McCarthy's blog, Passion Fruit, here; Joanne Critchow's space here. MORE on Alice Yard is here.