My project aims to understand the impact of time and space on my painting and the painting of other mid-life contemporary women painters and to identify how this manifests itself within the processes and forms of painting practice.

The research is empirical and experiential, its uniqueness residing in the fact that it will reveal new knowledge about the implications of time and space on the practice of painting by midlife women painters.

I have devised two terms to explain my painting methodology ‘painting ad-hoc’ and ‘inbetweener painting’. These terms describe my approach to painting which happens on ‘on demand’ in-between other jobs or responsibilities.

Why was it good for me to take on the residency?

It was good for me to take on the residency as I have found it very difficult to carve time for myself this year to research between working full-time and caring for my family. Following the example of other mother artists and in response to my reading of Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own’ I decided to apply for a residency of the same name with the ‘Spilt Milk Gallery’ as it fitted my intention perfectly. This activity was appropriate for my current study stage as it gave me the time and space to respond and reflect on my research in a room where my interests were paramount.

Information about Spilt Milk

How does their ethos connect with my research my research?

Spilt Milk Gallery CIC is a Social Enterprise based in Edinburgh. Their mission is to make motherhoods visible by promoting the work of artists who identify as mothers, and empowering mothers in the community through artist-led activity. By increasing the visibility of artist mothers, they aim to contribute to an inclusive culture where all voices and experiences can be represented and valued.

This intention connects with my research as I am keen to give a voice to painters whose language is affected by time and space limitations particularly mothers. I am concerned with demystifying painting and being more elastic in its interpretation of painting to make the field more inclusive, diverse and empowering.

Spilt Milk support and advocate for artist *mothers through their international membership network and promote the work of our members through online and pop-up exhibitions and events. Since 2018, they have welcomed nearly 300 artist mothers working globally with diverse practices and at different stages of their careers. Through the provision of accessible opportunities for mothers to continue their artistic careers, they support a culture where motherhood is no longer seen as an obstacle to overcome but as a rich and empowering part of an artists’ creative identity. Spilt Milk uses the term ‘mothers’ however they are committed to providing a safe and inclusive space for non-binary parents and trans mothers, long-term carers and those that experience racism, disabled mothers, lesbian, gay and bisexual mothers, young mothers, older mothers and those from a low-income background (Spilt Milk, 2022).

They state that:

Women and non-binary artists have historically been and continue to be under-represented in the art world. While women outnumber men within arts education, just 35% of artists represented by commercial galleries are women, and they represent just 2% of the secondary art market. The view that women artists must choose between their career and motherhood has long been perpetuated in the art world and even where women do not have children, they still suffer the consequences of the ‘motherhood penalty’ with art institutions labelling women in their 30’s as “risky” or “unreliable.” By excluding mothers, their crucial narratives and experiences are also excluded from cultural representations. Spilt Milk aims to change this by providing accessible opportunities to support the inclusion of mothers and mothering within the arts (Spilt Milk, 2022).

The hyperlinks provided me with valuable quantitative data to support my research. In investigating this subject, I am aware of my stance as an intersectional feminist and the ‘others’ affected by the conditions in which they express themselves as painters. This has affected my practice and teaching. It has given me the confidence to express my idiosyncratic painterly language without trepidation and discover more about others affected by similar issues such as people of colour, LGBTQ+ and artists from low-income backgrounds.

What were the results of my research?

How did this experience help with my research?

This experience helped with my research by allowing me to form a collection and exhibit it. It provided me with the opportunity to make iterations and reflect on motifs. To work consistently and to work alongside another artist. This process allowed me to understand the importance of dialogue, my need for discussion, and the importance of significant others in pushing ideas forward. This time allowed me to visit galleries. I saw the Barbara Hepworth Exhibition and collected key quotes for future reference. Her work had a significant impact on the work I did during the week.

The residency gave me the opportunity to:

  • Self-prioritise
  • Set my ‘perfect’ working conditions
  • Have the freedom to make without too many interruptions
  • Work independently and collaborate
  • Engage with the work of other artists/exhibitions
  • Observe the impact of that on my work
  • Notice the importance of visiting galleries
  • Practise self-care
  • Develop thinking time
  • Create mental space
  • Have courage to change conditions for me
  • Foster belief in myself
  • Find value in all practice
  • Write a Maternal Manifesto
  • Catch up
  • Work to time limits as well as ignore time limitations
  • Work through anxieties by making
  • Work through the frustrations by making
  • Exhibit a collection of work
  • Identify areas for further research

Here is the Maternal Residency Manifesto 2022

(Collaborative with Amy Russell to Helen Sergeant’s call for contributions to the Maternal Art Manifesto).

  1. Always have breaks. Exciting ideas/work can evolve during these times.
  2. Value everything you make.
  3. Make work regularly. However small.
  4. A plan is good, but you don’t have to stick to it.
  5. Talk about your work with someone you trust.

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