In this series of work I am revisiting ideas that I've had since I was a child - a connection I felt with ancient Greek myths. These were stories which gave me nightmares but also rang true even in my childish experience. Now being much older I am reflecting on the Odyssey as a description of a hard journey home - what does that mean? the journey to our first perception of the self, our first wounds and hurts, maybe our first experience of joy and curiosity. I still feel the horror of Electra's predicament and have learnt the grief of Hecabe's story albeit in a less extreme way than so many. In the coming years I will add to this gallery as I address each drama in turn and face up to its relevance in my own life as an artist, a woman and an outsider.
Hecabe and her Women
Hecabe, queen of Troy lost all her children in the Trojan war and is synonymous with the most terrible grief and loss. Yet, people do continue to live after tragedy, life is changed but still goes on. Blum reflects on death, the loss of his son yet in the end embraces ‘warm fullblooded life’. The collaged image I have used is from heartbreaking photo of a Bosnian woman at the graveside of her sons. So little has changed
Eurydice and the City of the Dead
When Molly Bloom lies in bed contemplating her husband’s proposal of marriage it made me think about the death of love; how marriage for so many women was and is an institution that disempowers them and deadens their souls.
Penelope’s husband came back to her whereas Eurydice’s husband came to rescue her, did not follow the instructions he was given and she was lost to the underworld….
Growing up in Cork I was aware from an early age of how marriage signified the end of freedom and the death of self - I am amazed that in the end I did get married and that it has been happy.
In this work Agamemnon, who had sacrificed his daughter to the gods so that his ship could sail away from Troy, awaits his death at the hands of his wife’s. His wife was the mother of the daughter he killed. The themes of betrayal, guilt, revulsion and consequences are all consuming. It is a dreadful tale of how daughters have been regarded as expendable and lesser. I was the eldest daughter in my family and I was never good enough, never the son. I think in later life my father reassessed this - he apologised to me for how he had treated me and unlike Iphigenia - I was able to move on.
When I started this work, a friend posed for me, he had a certain physical bravado and posturing that conjured the 'warrior' preparing for conflict, the integrity of a body which has not yet been dragged by the heels by a chariot. The classical beauty of Greek sculpture stands at such odds with the impact of war on the human body - there is a profound cognitive dissonance in this, a dreadful and profoundly emotional contradiction. Hector with his helmets and warrior statuary, male figures that intimidate and female ones that pressurise in other ways is a solitary and doomed figure
This is a reworking of the original painting I made in 1994 - I started it at a time of huge emotional and life-threatening upheaval. Medea is the name I gave my eldest daughter because I felt it was time to rehabilitate this lovely name. Medea means 'wise woman' and that is something to celebrate.
The Medea of myth, who helped Jason to steal the golden fleece, who enabled him to become king, was then betrayed by him . She knew that once her husband Jason married a second wife, their sons would be forfeit - a recurring pattern in all polygamous rule. It was a matter of time before the second wife or her children would exile or kill the children of Medea. Unlucky second wife burnt to death in the bridal robes sent to her by Medea - a scenario about which many deserted first wives may fantasise.... . Medea goes further. This mother, puts her children to sleep so they do not suffer and then kills them, she kills them in an act of revenge against her husband - it is an unbearable thing to contemplate and yet family courts are full of cases which echo these sentiments in frightening ways.