This is the first of a series of new large paintings on canvas that feature tapestry-like curtains as the main stage on which narratives play out. For mental health reasons, I have for many years often visualised cloth or curtains to cover ‘subjects’ of anxiety. They help me to prevent hamster wheels in my head. Like shutting a book on an unpleasant chapter, you know it may open up again but for now it is closed. The process has had limited success as things always leak through, yet it has helped to cloak some things until I could deal with them.
This painting with its figure-stories explores women caught between societal judgement and an inherent guilt that tells them they must be a fault. Paintings visually explore devious cultural psychologies that trap women in cycles of guilt and anxiety and aim to enable us all to find ways to understand and deal with societal pressure and inequality.
A history of domestic appliances explores power relations and hierarchies. It denies historical and religious references in its title, yet patriarchy is there and its coat of arms are 5 ‘diapers’ – the diamond patterns in the cloth that led to the synonymous American diapers – or nappies in the UK. I’ve been painting figures that use historical references since 2006, yet rarely broken with the use of bitumen, which makes multiple figure paintings very challenging (and doing it for that reason). It’s an interesting process to freely explore multiple figured narrative compositions inspired by history, yet of my own invention, using – just oil paint for a change.
Painting for social change
Paintings create rich tapestries of dark yet colourful scenes that aim to re-shape our thinking about equality and visibility. Narrative is a central function of language and to learn to speak is to tell a story – yet that story has primarily been written or illustrated by men. Creating differentiated narratives that layer and connect time, people and equality, takes us on a journey and that ‘once upon a time’ tells us that things change. As we exist in the middle of our stories, we all need to be reminded that we can make the ending different.
These are some of the most recent 2021 paintings on canvas and paper from Delpha’s studio. Oil works on canvas are time intensive and take many months to make. Watercolour paintings also use a hectic and gaudy palette of colour and form to communicate joy and distress. They are ironic, contradictory, simultaneously particular and general. They use relentless and restless ink markings to explore images and motifs that are at once personal, poetic and political.
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