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Dark or not …

September 28, 2021

Unlike those artists who use the art and skills in a playful way to educate and lessen the grief and hardship of physical and mental hardship; there artists that use their work skilfully to expose the harm and in some cases the perpetrators they have encountered.  During the course I attended a lecture by Erin M. Riley an artist whose work focuses on women’s issues in woven tapestries.  Her work is used to expose the harm that she has encountered at the hands of her family and lovers and self-harm.  While the tapestries are of the highest artistic and technical standard the subject matter is graphic, shocking, and some not far from the pornographic realm.  Her narrative, tone and attitude during the lecture was dark, poignant, and strangely beguiling.  I was reminded of an essay by Susan Sontag about Antonin Artaud the poet, dramatist, actor, and theatre director and major figure in the early 20th century theatre and European avant-garde and well known for his raw and transgressive themes. For Artaud, it is the extreme mental and physical pain that is transformed into artistry.  Although he was part of the surrealist scene he was at odds with their thoughts as ‘connoisseurs of joy, freedom, and pleasure, Artaud is a connoisseur of despair and moral struggle’. (Sontag, S. 1980)  

For me this is harsh and unattainable.  My tutor pointed out that we all have personal grievances and while they are not comparable or measurable some artists chose not to share or address them explicitly/publicly, they might use artistic tools, metaphor, irony or merely sanitise their work. 

‘Dolls are something scream, something mute.

Something of childhood, something of death,

Something of cruel, something of joyful…’  Michel Nedjar 1996.

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