Returning Medusa's gaze

  • Rebecca Coath

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU


    This thesis investigates the complexities encoded in the role of the artist, from my point of view as a woman, in relation to the modernist painting tradition. This relates to the broader issue of women as cultural producers in a society in whose language, philosophy and art women are, in the deepest sense, still most often represented as reflections of the masculine imaginary, rather than acknowledged as active, speaking subjects in our own right.

    The tension between woman as object and subject is particularly apparent in the western painting tradition since the Renaissance. Women's cultural production has historically been denigrated within this tradition, whilst the body of Woman is constantly depicted as a sign. The ubiquitous depiction of women's bodies in contemporary advertising has its roots in this paradigm. 

    As cultural producers, women have had to constantly confront, within themselves and within society at large, the expectation that they should be seen but not heard. 

    Those who have wanted to bring to light aspects of their experience and understanding which are unacknowledged by the masculine paradigm, have negotiated a tricky path between either having their ideas neutralised by translation into its verbal, visual and conceptual codes, or incoherence brought about by trying to introduce alien concepts into a dominant symbolic order, fundamentally structured as indifferent, if not hostile, to, difference - to the possibility of a tongue which speaks in a language beyond the masculine. 

    Drawing upon previous investigations into feminine subjectivity, via psychoanalytic theory, literary and artistic production, my research explores the possibilities for evolving a feminine subjectivity through abstract painting. 

    Throughout this project, I have experimented with painting as dialogue, document and performance. The exhibition Returning Medusa 's Gaze, resulting from this research, presents my work in a way that underscores its ambivalent stance in relation to the heroic tradition of modernist abstraction. By embedding abstract painting in a specific temporal and spatial context, I invite a reading of it that is intimate, embodied, elusive, fleeting, chimerical, contemplative and sensual. This project comes to no fixed conclusions. By necessity, it remains open - the nature of the research, ongoing.

    Note: Restricted access.
    Date of AwardJun 2005
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorAnne Ooms (Supervisor) & Sylvia Kleinert (Supervisor)

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