Adrienne Doig, Self Portrait 0 to 40, 2004, hand
painted set of 5 Russian Dolls, dimensions variable.
Your method of production is not usually taught at art school, what got you started on it?
I taught myself embroidery from a book. I learned basic sewing at school, also my grandmother was a very good dressmaker and knitter and I picked up her sensibility. I like the intricacy of the work and the hands-on quality. I find small details greatly add to the work’s interest. I am very fussy. I like everything to be well made and for there to be fine points to engage the viewer. My work, both with embroidery or machine sewing, is quite meticulous. I want to achieve a certain finish and surface complexity. A high level of technical finesse was once highly valued in ‘handiwork’, it is now not so often found, but its something I aspire to. I want my work to look beautiful and well made. I want to revive those past skills in my work. I want the ‘craft’ of my work to be of a high standard. In using materials like tea towels, fabric scraps and old clothes, I can also draw on past traditions of the homemaker and of domestic industry, which I like.
In the past people had to use the materials that came to hand, fabrics were recycled and the imagery was often autobiographical and or local. Today most craft is an industry. I’m thinking about activities like quilting and cross-stitch; it is all very homogenised, pattern book stuff, much of the originality and inventiveness of the past is lost. Using these older traditions and working methods adds an ambiguity to my work that hopefully challenges distinctions between craft and art.
Your work is a series of self portraits, are they a reflection of how you see yourself as a woman in the Australian domestic landscape, or how others may see you?
Superimposing my self-portrait across the image on the tea towel can create a clumsy picture. The two elements are an uneasy fit. The choice of materials and the ‘anti-style’ techniques of applique, embroidery worked onto the kitsch imagery of the tea towels creates a kind of patchwork image, which I think accentuates the humour and also makes obvious the fictional nature of portraiture.
The work is self-portraiture but the imagery is a bit fantastical really. I do all these activities, but combining an image of myself skipping with an image of kangaroos is a bit like a performance or role play. It’s not really how I see myself, or how others see me, but at the same time they are true self portraits, they don’t show just what I physically look like, I think they really do say something about me, about the kind of person that I am.
'Self Portrait 0 to 40' is currently being exhibited as part of META4; a group exhibition of four Sydney artists, all of whom harness techniques that are traditionally associated with women’s handiwork and craft to express, to challenge and sometimes to parody the concepts and psyche behind gender stereotyping, femininity and domesticity. Exhibition runs 1 September - 2 October 2010.
Adrienne Doig will also be a part of 'Hands On', a survey of Australian contemporary artists whose primary mode of production is usually assosciated with home crafts. Curated by Cash Brown, this exhibition can be seen at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery from 4 December, 2010.