Women as the artist of their own image
The paintings you see here began as portraits. I am fascinated by women who use their own image in their creative work, from painters to actresses to social media photographers. So I seek them out, in our current time and in our history.
But then the portraits change. As I discover the story of each woman, layers of symbolism and narrative build across my canvas. I find myself referencing our shared female histories, maybe the motifs of crewel embroidery, or the themes in a fairy tale. And then, above all, I paint the relationship between their image and my own. How did society respond to these women’s use of their images? And what does this say about the freedom I have to use mine?
Text from 'All Our Stories', a pop-up art exhibition on 1st February 2018. The event wouldn't have been possible without Cristina at Vortex Valencia and Aislin at Jameson Whiskey. Read on for more about each painting and story....
Tamara de Lempicka was celebrated for her Art Deco paintings of 1920s aristocrats. Her iconic self-portrait ‘Autoportrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti)’ was used for the cover of a fashion magazine. In its time it was known as the “hymn of the modern woman” yet is now widely criticised as ‘style over substance’.
Leonor Fini was a surrealist painter and author, known for her depictions of women. She was ‘Queen of the Paris art world’ from the 1940s to 1960s, and one of the most photographed women of the 20th century. Her work is now largely forgotten, but Cartier-Bresson’s photograph of her nude in a swimming pool sold for $305,000.
Artemisia as a Bride
Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi is now seen as one of the most accomplished painters of her generation. There has been huge interest in Artemisia since the 1970s feminist publication "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?". For me, her power is that she used her own likeness in religious art. Would a female painter be able to do that today?
Mary with Apples
Actress Imogene Robertson began as a 1920s Zeigfeld girl called ‘Bubbles’. She fled to Germany after an abusive relationship with a married comedy star left her hospitalised, then returned to Hollywood as leading-lady ‘Mary Nolan’. She modelled for artists and signed for Universal, but after being beaten unconscious by another married man, became addicted to morphine and died at 46.
Valeria Boltneva is an Estonian photographer who releases images of herself under a ‘CC0’ license. It means her images are completely free to be used for any legal purpose. Her self-portraits are showcased alongside photographs of cakes and hotel sofas. I am interested in Valeria's relationship with her own image - does she see it as without value or her key to a creative career?
Also shown - Qandeel (in progress). Images to follow when the painting is finished.
New work in this series