I know nothing of the language or aesthetics of Art.
But was moved by Susan’s Work -- from the first time I saw it.
I was moved by even the idea of the process: scraps of old lace gathered from op-shops, some hand-made, hand-dyed, dismembered and re-structured. Bits of fabric from the mothers and grandmothers and Aunts and sisters of our collective past. It’s romantic to me … but … No. Says Susan. It’s not romantic! I rip it up and hammer it onto board. It’s a harsh process.
Ripped and hammered. Fading images from the past. Black and white photographs. Black and white materials: but there is nothing black and white about the final images … ambiguities… spaces… silences…
Early in the process Susan shows me the slides she has chosen to work with … I look at the first few and think “The Handless Maiden ‘ as I notice two or three photos where the hands are hidden from view. I ask if this is intentional. Are all the subjects handless? She has not heard of “The Handless Maiden” … but sure enough, the hands are missing in every single photo she has chosen.
There is something Sorrowful evoked for me when I look at this Lacework too. An intricate and modern re-working of Grief … and the themes from The Handless Maiden resonate with this as well. The wounded Feminine: loses her hands, wanders lost and weeping for years alone in the wilderness. She tries to re-create her world. Silver hands are made for her by a King/Lover-- but she finds silver hands have no more touch or feeling for her than before. She wants flesh and blood hands that feel. In some versions of the story she has a child called Sorrowful and it is in trying to save this child, haul it up from the watery depths – that her hands are miraculously restored.
Making this art seems like that to the casual observer. Hauling new life up from the watery depths. Mourning. Trying to reconnect. Well that’s part of what resonates for me when I look at these bits of ripped and hammered lace. Re-imaged. Hand-made. Hard work. Takes time to gather memories and scraps of feelings and fashion them into something new, and beautiful, these Hybrid creations: products of consummation between the old world and the new. I love the way the Feminine – in the archetypal meaning of the word – is honoured in the process of the making of this black lace art. What inspired Susan was not the Myth. She has another story. When archetypal images are activated they seem to resonate a thousand stories for each of a thousand different people who respond to them. Each time I spend time looking at these images different words and ideas come to me. I am also reminded of an article entitled Coming to Terms with the Country,
“As I listened to the murmurings of discontent about our civilisation, I began to differentiate dimensions in the ‘whisperings in our hearts’ (Henry Reynolds). These are four of those ‘whispering voices’ which caught my attention.
THE VOICE OF WOMEN
There was the voice of the culturally ‘buried woman’, a kind of symbolic Australian Antigone, emotionally walled up, whose suppression generated rages, depressions and laments for a lost feminine self and a lost authentic erotic life.
THE REFUGEE / IMMIGRANT VOICES
There was a voice of immigration, the ‘suitcase stories’, the grief of families, countries and cultures lost and left behind; the residue of trauma from overseas.
There was an Indigenous ‘whispering’, a request for recognition, visibility and justice, not only by Indigenous peoples but also by those who felt and knew that the suppression of the Indigenous was a crime for which eventually everyone would have to answer.
THE VOICE OF THE COUNTRY
… It speaks in ‘country tongues’ and the language is hard to decode, but it was there, affecting the psyche of people in ways still waiting to be deciphered.” 1
The same voices whisper to me from the spaces between the tacks and black lace.
The lost narratives, blackness, whiteness, silence, the inherent violence in re-creation, the missing hands that ask how are we to reconnect with the natural world? These are all part of our inherited psychic landscape. … ambiguities… spaces… silences… scraps and traceries hauled in from the Hinterlands …
1 .p29 Coming to Terms with Country. A paper by Craig San Roque with Andrew Spencer Japaljarri and Leon Petchkovsky, in LANDMARKS papers by Jungian Analysts from Australia and New Zealand, 2001.