A View From Elsewhere


‘The View from Elsewhere’ is an ongoing research project which presents contemporary history painting in order to make visible feminist interpretations of 20th-century Irish women’s history. A feminist methodology is engaged to present a redress to historical omissions and misreadings alongside semi-fictional or ‘what if?’ contemplations of history. Deliberately manipulated narratives are combined with painting strategies that aim to present the very constructed nature of history. Of interest is the construction of gender difference in 20th century Ireland, in particular the time period when women were politically, socially and often legally reduced to homemakers and mothers. The paintings seeks to critique this hegemonic notion by presenting professionally groundbreaking women including Carmel Snow – editor of Harper’s Bazaar (1887 – 1961), Sheila Tinney – mathematician (1918 – 2010) and Jocelyn Bell Burnell – astrophysicist (b.1943).
Diagrammatic strategies are engaged to develop the work beyond the confines of representation wrapped up in the original source photograph. This offers a way to deal with the non-representational elements such as the subjective construction of historical greatness and the experience and sensations presented by the encounter with the paintings. The paintings use archival material as a starting point which stands in as a sign of the accepted documents of history. Properties of the photograph are mimicked such as framing and cut-off compositions as well as tone and contrast. This creates a scaffold that provides an initial sense of coherence which is then disrupted by painting strategies such as adding or subtracting elements, manipulating scale and colour, creating multiples and incorporating colour maps into the paintings.
The project title takes its name from a Griselda Pollock text on Manet in which she uses the concept of a ‘politically and historically generated elsewhere’ to consider ‘different viewing positions’ of historical works when read in the context of a society built on constructed class, race and sexual difference. (Pollock,1996: 307)