Skirting the issues, painted canvas skirt and performance, SOAK Live Art, the Leadworks, Plymouth.
Playing around with painting, personas and performance, I made a canvas skirt and neck pocket (bib) for a performance at Soak live art at the Leadworks, Plymouth at the end of November 2023.
Wonderful supportive atmosphere to experiment with new ideas about performing and using language and objects that resonate with home and caring duties. Telling personal stories interspersed with written texts about skirting boards, equality, women and silence, I edged about the room (like a skirting board). Objects and clothing carry with them symbolic dualities of presence and absence and simultaneously propose multiple spaces between both.
The live performance had the goal of using my body as a means of re-enactment and reflection. My stories weave in and out of other’s stories of home, care and visibility.
From the painted skirt (and neck pocket (bib) I developed metaphors for maternal and domestic bodies existing fluidly between multiple subjectivities and in connective relationships to others.
I don’t know where this is going, just that there may be more painted canvas objects spring-boarding me back to performance projects.
Performing in local landscapes
A familiar space; a place of possibility
My interest in performing in landscapes is to harness the magic of encounter and promote alternative visions. Landscape as site of renewal, a place to recreate myth and metaphors about the human condition and about the beautiful world that we live in.
I am very fortunate to have spectacular historical landscapes on my doorstep. They are more than back-drops, they are home, familiar places that I care about and have the potential to can be used to create surreal juxtapositions between the performed maternal body, domestic objects and landscape that engender new connections and collective action about caring for others, self and the world around us.
Playing and performing the body, the Self and our stories outside – beyond domestic enclosures has the potential to be parodic and subversive; confronting, destabilising and transfiguring stereotypical stories and associations between women, nature and domesticity, transcending domestic ‘bounds’, and redefining women’s relationships with public space. I think of current work in ancient landscape as acts of care and ‘decentering’; creating a multi-layered fluid terrain, where the mother’s body and embodiment enables the female subject to turn history on itself and create freedom beyond domestic confines.
More to come as Helen Sargeant & I collaborate on a series of films from performance at the Men-an-Tol stones in June, 2023. We are currently making ‘sister’ films about bodies, birthing and mental health. My film Ironing the Sky will follow themes explored in other film work based in local landscapes.
Roses and other phantoms (600cm x180cm), Porthmeor Studios
From August-October 2022 Delpha was resident at studio 9 Porthmeor Studios in St Ives to work on large scale ‘history’ paintings. The resulting Roses and other phantoms (6mx 180cm acrylic on canvas) is a tapestry-like history painting laced with socially charged inter-textual references that celebrate the mundane and often invisible lives of women.
‘For women history is not made up of one victorious moment, it is made up of daily domestic minutiae and selfless caring acts. All art explores our system of values and these paintings mix multiple frames of reference creating a dialogue between: ancient myths and contemporary tales; historical pattern and contemporary Subjects; universal symbolism and personal imagination.’ Read more…
Delpha Hudson October 2022
Your place in the world, Scottish painting commission
This commission is about as close as I get to landscape which follows the shape of the coast around Ffionphort, Mull. Medievalesque iconography seems natural for a place that faces legendary Iona. – with multiple local references, fauna and flora. Entwining nature with pattern and ancient storytelling, there be seaweed, sea grass, sea horses, dolphins, otters, red deer, puffins, gannets, eagles,..as well as kelpies, selkies, will o’the wisps – and maybe a fairy dog (Cu Sith).
Rich traditions of folklore and legend are woven into the fabric of our lives, symbolic of the ancient necessity to tell stories. It was commissioned and made by collaboratively sharing local stories and myths. Your place in the world is about home, nature, and some of the wonderful people who care for the places they live.
Delpha Hudson, January 2023
One+All: a site-specific painting project engaging in themes of care and collectivity
Creating Social & Conceptual Networks
The project invited participants to engage in dialogues about local networks that support others, including food sacks that can be used to donate food to local food banks.
‘I’ve been painting in situ at Bocawen’un stone circle making personalised food sacks and gifting them to participants, who are invited to donate to local food banks. Dialogue and co-creation of a performative contemporary ritual of gift at my local circle explores sharing societal care and visibility through the metaphor of the food sacks at this ancient assembly point.
St Buryan stone circle at Bocawen’un near my home is a regular haunt. It hints of unknowable ancient human presence and networks, its sense of history and connection that is further enhanced by a ‘flint factory’ field nearby. The flint, not indigenous to Cornwall speaks of a pre-historic Cornwall as a hub with connections all over the world
Over millennia stone circles were ancient assembly points, a space that people came together – to celebrate –whatever they valued. Appropriating this ancient space and its myths for a contemporary art event that celebrates quotidian caring for others including but not confined to families and parenting. Taking the circle as a starting point, art has the potential to create new myths and cyclical reinventions of what we value’. (Delpha Hudson, April 2022)
The project was featured on the synesthesia project , Cornwall
Small medievalesque paintings about parenting
Small paintings made and sold for a number of charity projects in Cornwall including Wild Young Parents project which supports young parents in Cornwall.
Paintings made to celebrate 125 years of Newlyn Society of Artists 125 year anniversary
I was drawn to Elizabeth Forbes’ intimate domestic representations of mothers and children as my own work deals with representing the (often invisible) lived experience of women and motherhood.
Elizabeth Forbes was an exceptional woman artist and one of the founders of the Newlyn Society of Artists. Unusual for the time, she juggled being a wife with a professional life, setting up the Passmore Edwards building (now Newlyn Art Gallery) and having a professional painting practice despite being side-lined by her more famous husband Stanhope-Forbes.
It is interesting how we might now interpret her nostalgic and intimate paintings of care and childhood. I love the way she exalts humdrum activities. On the knife-edge of tropes of idolised motherhood I aim for a darker edge, filling my canvases with her figures, riffing on them with dripped bitumen paint, and letting new figures crowd onto the canvas through the process.
There is something idyllic and fairytale in capturing moments of idealised childhood and home life – and this is reflected in my use of colour. Yet such moments are fleeting, and often in-between the hellish activities of balancing work, mothering and caring.
My paintings pay homage to Elizabeth Forbes whilst working against ideality through a gin alley chaos that satisfies my enquiry into darker representations of domesticity, asking questions about our common experience of childcare, mental health and societal value.
Delpha Hudson, 2021
Small Promethean Acts, sound and sculpture installation, Derby, 2019
Read more about sound, sculpture and installation projects on the sculpture page.
The Theatre of the Self – a project about women, diary keeping and mental health
The Theatre of the Self box set of five A6 books was supported by Arts Council & Cultivator funding and a limited edition print was the culmination of a 3 years project and was published in 2021. Read more about Theatre of the Self project or watch a film
Other performance, film, and sculptural installation projects can be seen on Delpha’s archive
Follow Delpha’s other projects on @theatre of the self