Papering the cracks in the walls of my world: an exploration of motherhood, childhood, and traditional printmaking in the digital era

  • Natasha Peta Rowell

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU


    In this project I use printmaking to investigate the dual role of mother artists, representations of childhood, and the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood in the digital age. I aim to visually represent the ‘knowing child’ and
    contribute to the discourse on children in art. As a medium that has historically offered an artistic avenue for women, I propose that printmaking can bridge the controversies surrounding photographers working with the mother’s gaze and provoke discussion of the cognitive dissonance inherent in conflicting social attitudes towards and reactions to representations of children in art in contrast to commercial media and advertising.

    The imagery and techniques employed in this project reflect and build upon the darkness of certain German expressionists and depictions of motherhood by artists like Kath Kollwitz and Mary Cassatt. These influences combine, almost playfully, with the aesthetics of repetitive wallpaper, as well as more contemporary and commercial icons
    of childhood. Inspired by the work and experiences of contemporary mother artists, primarily photographers, its context owes a great deal to discussions of parenting and childhood (particularly of daughters) in the digital era, as well as the concept of nomadic thought.

    The result is a series of multi-panel prints that reference Victorian and Art Nouveau aesthetics, particularly with regard to wallpaper as a boundary-marker of the domestic
    sphere. Imagery is informed by representations of childhood ranging from Victorian memento mori to modern, hyper-stylised commercial iconography. The repetitive patterns are overlaid with, and partially obscured by, silhouettes derived from
    photographs of my children playing.

    These patterns, images and shadows also document the growth of my children, and our mutual engagement with externally imposed narratives of childhood including
    Disney fairytales, gendered and sexualised commercial products, and the programmes and advertising that inform much of the behaviour and cultural symbology of
    contemporary childhood. Installed as ‘wallpaper’ in a colonial cottage, my work seeks to place itself within a domestic space in order to encourage and participate in
    dialogue regarding the ways in which the domestic sphere is permitted to be depicted and observed, the right of parents to document their children’s lives, and the ways in which domesticity is infiltrated by commercialism.

    Date of AwardJan 2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSimon Cooper (Supervisor), Cornelius Delaney (Supervisor) & Amy Jackett (Supervisor)

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