Medea / Alice at War
This section examines trauma, consent, rape; mental health, and more specifically, the lives of two women. Initially examining family photographs from the 1920s until the 1960s, the focus is the attempt to understand, and narrate, the lives of my late paternal grandmother and her daughter, Alice, using Greek mythology as a platform not only to display these complex, familiar characters; but also, to rethink specific narratives within ancient mythology, and in particular the narratives of women, and what is really happening in their lives.
Alice at War, a painting part of the Medea series, examines consent, fear and childhood trauma. The children in this painting are living through a war. Each understands that to some degree they are less important to something greater and more frightening, a concern that keeps their complicated parents constantly preoccupied. The deliberately joyful, excited expressions of the children, heightened by dark tones, seeks to support their expressions, as if they wish to celebrate something with the viewer, a moment when they can be children, when someone acknowledges them. The strange monotony of the colours is intentional. I wanted to heighten this sense of something that never ends: the sensation that fear and emotional pain create, the experience of trauma, somehow find themselves represented in these children as they try to be young and happy, and, the heaviness of the colours that paste them to the canvas.
The lives of traumatized, abused women are examined through imagery inspired by photographs taken during and after WWII, as well as Euripides’ version of the Greek tragedy Medea, and other myths. Earthy tones, developed through experiments in colourizing black-and-white photos, support my exploration of consent in love and sex. Drawing inspiration from the myth of Europa, who was raped by Zeus, I use the image of a little girl, my aunt, to force the viewer to confront the theme of what consent really means, where to draw the line between the consensual and, rape or assault. What interests me, and which I will continue to explore, is how historically this myth is depicted like a romance, with other women surrounding and pushing Europa to go to Zeus. This disturbs me, and is part of why I worked from a photo of my aunt surrounded by older women, riding someone's back like Europa on Zeus disguised as a bull.
Here, the concept of consent and sexual agency in a relationship is considered through the characters of Jason and Medea. Unlike more traditional depictions of these individuals from ancient Greek myth and tragedy, this couple is aging and unglamorous, apparently unaware of their own reality, possessed by their own selves. Yet, they are separate. A deliberately disjointed quality to the overall composition of the painting maintains this sense of separation, produced by the gaping dark crevices in the rock behind them, while their inability to look into one another's eyes displays their power struggle. This image of Medea may appear to delineate a woman in control- so upright, even content- however it is uncertain if the man beside Medea truly respects her: he stares blankly in another direction, yet positions himself as if attempting to touch her and pull her against him.