29 Oct

I couldn’t be in Derby last week as I had to go home to work and earn some money. I also had my ‘Domestic Dystopias’ paintings on show. ‘Domestic Dystopias’ are a colourful series of large paintings using bitumen paint that are about homes, women, children. Intended to be dark and funny, I realise I’m not entirely happy with the overdramatic use of ‘dystopias’. I had merely wanted to question ideality in the home and play with the opposite of Utopia. So I asked: ‘What lies in between ‘utopia’ and ‘dystopia’? My husband said: ‘Everyday life’. Not such a catchy title though.

artcore studio figure making

Today I just want to be able to sit in the studio and make new work. I’m still surprised sometimes that I make figurative work yet figures ‘perform’ in ways that I can’t. We feel,  empathise and respond to the movements and gestures of other humans – and I think to mimetic sculpture and drawings too. The small clay figures take a long time to create. They must ‘fit’ an object and tell a story of their own. The figures can be kitsch, classic, awkward, fragmented yet the stoneware clay always has a classy aesthetic – once fired.

small clay figure with hands outstretched

These small sculptures do not illustrate the stories literally. They might link or be inspired by stories that I am collecting from people about their domestic lives but not necessarily. They create a conversation between object and subject and speak of value, though there are mixed metaphors since the found objects are mostly rubbish I have picked up on the streets of Derby.

random domestic objects tap, typewriter, pot

But there are so many other things to juggle, so I can’t always just sit here playing with clay, pots and pans, things I’ve found..  I have passed all life tests in juggling. I have been a single working mum with 4 children and made time to make art. All those things we do for family, we do for love. Yes but it still makes me cross. ‘Home work’ is often just not fair and certainly not equal.

Women do the lion’s share of physical care for others and sometimes make a living (a very poor living) ironically as care workers. Statistics confirm this, yet my anger is not entirely about gender bias. Things are changing and there are plenty of men and others that perform large and small acts of care for others in the home.

The root of the issue is value.

My work is politically motivated. I want to question what our society values. I want the poorest, most devalued people (often women and carers) to be visible for what they do. For the sake of their own mental health because being ignored, invisible and blamed as a housewife, mother, carer is not just unfair, it’s ridiculous. We rely on these people – for everything.

I’d like to see people have professional status and be paid for their ‘home work’ –I can dream! But if art can represent the emotional ambivalence of drudgery, the invisible acts, the love-hate conflicts, maybe they can learn to cope, hold their heads up high and ask for more.

My Artcore project aims to collect the most insignificant stories and present them visually in order to accrue value. I’d like people to think about what is really valuable in their lives and homes.

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