Special Projects

patterned painted chair installation
Grandma’s Story, painting installation with found object and acrylic on linen, 2024

‘May my story be beautiful and unwind like a long thread’

Trinh T. Minh-Ha

Everyone is invited to sit in the chair and read stories out loud or to yourself. All stories are original re-versioning of old tales, myths and stories about women.

The title Grandma’s Story is eponymously taken from the writing of Trinh T. Minh-Ha[1] who explores the significance of matriarchal story telling and lineage, witches, wise words and healing. It includes wonderful passages from Leslie Marmon Silko, whose words,

‘set into motion the forces that lie dormant in things and beings’.[2]

Stories as organic processes and living things that are fragments of life that are not yet complete, yet their meanings never stop interacting with our lives.

Grandma’s Story is made from an abandoned chair from Penzance, Bread Street. She has been rescued and re-covered after many generations of being handed down; she is already the conjunction and culmination of many stories. There is a regal aspect to this grand old matriarchal chair and she weighs a ton (not gold but definitely iron and horsehair). Her stories and her body have been reinvented using a historical domesticated aesthetic that re-imagines her appeal for contemporary audiences.

chair cover painting
The back of Grandma’s Story, acrylic on linen on found object, 2024

She has been re-covered with linen found in a charity shop in Penzance. Printed and painted patterns refer to stories from many sources, including a bucket load of ancient fables and fairy stories from other cultures and countries. There are hybrid monstrosities as well as endearing western tropes.

These visual stories are not sequential and cannot be read or interpreted in any particular order. A law of infinite metaphor exists in the juxtaposition of new creations and infusions of old myths. This is a kind of ‘collusion’ and a necessary ‘form of well-proven magic’. And according to Marina Warner this comes ‘offering a curse in order to command its field of meaning’.[3]  Re-writing and re-imaging stereotypes of women and their lives is difficult territory. How do you re-represent women in a way that does not reinforce the same misogynist tropes about young girls and old witches that have existed since tales began? I recommend reading Angela Carter as a starting point and there are many other humorous re-tellings of traditional tales with a feminist twist by other women writers.

Whilst this fuddy-duddy old chair is decorated with visual imagery, this imagery deliberately pertains to language, whether spoken or read. She is a storytelling chair and she speaks of many stories a well as having the potential of being the Subject of many stories. You are invited to sit in the chair, read and share stories; speak, share and write your own.

Her re-upholstery is decorated with snatches of writing around the bottom trim that are taken from the hand-embroidered bed canopy that May Morris made for her father William. Words are used intentionally here, not to illustrate or explain but to make our image and word brains work together. There may even be some dissonance as the texts are no more accurate than the images; these are creative and not illustrative.

The simple and home/handmade Morris & Sons style printed pattern was chosen to bring her (the chair) to life. After all Morris’s best advice about pattern that

‘nature has to look as if its continuing to grow’ [4]

And of course there is a reference to the beanstalk story on the front of the chair.

medieval like painting on linen
Grandma’s Story, detail, acrylic on linen, 2024

‘Allusions to ageing exposing stories and the female body, its internal organs and revealed underlying stories are places that social commentary, personal biography and fantasy may co-exist’.[5]

Hand sewing the final ‘body’ parts together on the chair was a little like creating a Frankenstein with sutures and pins. In creating her, I had in mind not only exploring old women as holders of stories but old women as a bodily conjunction between death and knowledge. Female bodies are irrational, messy and abject and she (the chair)makes allusions to the ageing female body through the colourful wool stuffing on the right arm. The stuffing was literally falling out of her, so this has been accentuated. Exposing internal organs still carries a visceral taboo despite our enjoyment of bloody stories about evisceration, or witch burning!

hybrid figures on linen
Detail from Grandma’s Story, acrylic on linen, 2024

The potential of figments, untruths, and fairy tales to disclose the truth about our selves is the fruitful premise of myth. The retelling twists our fabric of reality, reveals much about how women live and how they are perceived.

So many stories are so old they have mysterious sources and adaptations existing in multifarious versions in so many different cultures yet what is common is the grandmother or baba yaga. She might help or hinder. She is an ambiguous multi-faceted figure. Totemic and matriarchal, she is beyond easy summations of good and evil. She is not simply bad or benign. She is more interesting than that. She is the story and the storyteller. She is the bearer of stories and has the the potential to transform as well as turn you into a newt if she desires.

painting of a figure riding a pig
Detail from Grandma’s Story, acrylic on linen, 2024

‘Storytelling, the oldest form of building historical consciousness in community, constitutes a rich oral legacy’.

Grandma’s Story is about renewing old symbolism, creating new stories, and counter-acting new invisibilities. There is something beautiful and disturbing about monsters and hybrids, contradictory characters and subjects. There is beauty and strangeness in ambiguity and there is something pleasing and grotesque about metamorphosing figures, part human, part animal. This heady mix occupies a gap or an interval ‘between what has been and becoming [something other]’. Stories are a way that we tell the truth even whilst we are making it all up.

Our imaginations know no bounds,

‘the structures of the imagination are often highly ordered and internally consistent, themselves forming understanding’  [6]

and so using stories to create understanding about women’s lived experience and lives aims to be a social commentary about value.

‘The story depends upon every one of us to come into being. It needs us all, needs our remembering, understanding, and creating what we have heard together to keep on coming into being.’[7]

Delpha Hudson, March 2024

[1] Trinh T. Minh-Ha Grandma’s Story, the final chapter of Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism 

[2]  Trinh T. Minh-Ha Grandma’s Story, the final chapter of Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism 

[3] SIX MYTHS OF OUR TIME, Marina Warner, p.15

[4] taken from A.S. Byatt’s Peacock & Vine

[5] Anita Singh in Drawing by Andrew Malbert

[6]  Myths of our time, p.20

[7]  from Grandma’s story by I Trinh T. Minh-Ha in the final chapter of Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism 

a skirt that looks like a skirting board
Skirting the issues, performance with painted canvas skirt at the Leadworks, November 2023

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 in November 2023. From the painted skirt (and neck pocket (bib) I developed metaphors for maternal and domestic bodies existing fluidly between multiple subjectivities and interconnective relationships to others.

it was a 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. Live performances link to archive works and to new performance work and films in the landscape.

performance in plymouth
Skirting the issues, performance at Soak live art, Plymouth

performance in plymouth
Skirting the issues, live performance at the Leadworks, Plymouth

Feral Mothers, a collaboration with Helen Sargeant

performing in the landscape
Collaborations with Helen Sargeant at the Men-an-tol, June 2023

Read more about the Feral Mothers performance collaboration or find out more about films with Helen Sargeant as we explore mothering, landscape and ecologies of care

art performance
Iron my hair, with collaborator Helen Sargeant, June 2023

Roses and other phantoms, Porthmeor Studios, 2022

artist at work
Delpha working on Roses and Other Phantoms, August 2022

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

patterned wall painting
Roses and other phantoms, acrylic on canvas, 6mx180cm, Porthmeor Studios, 2022

Your place in the world, Scottish painting commission

figurative painting mull
Your place in the world, acrylic on canvas hanging, 75x120cm, 2023

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. Using multiple local references, entwining fauna and flora with pattern and ancient storytelling, there are sea grasses, seaweed, Celtic sea horses, dolphins, otters, red deer, puffins, gannets, eagles, as well as kelpies, selkies, Will o’the wisps and 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

promote socially engaged art project
One+All Flour sacks at Boscawen’un, May 2022 Analogue photo by the artist

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

art project
Delpha working at Bosacawen’un Stone circle Photo by John Hershey

food bank sack
Pineapple sack, 70x50cm, acrylic on calico with rope handle, 2022

Small medievalesque paintings about parenting

paintings for sale
Small medievalesque paintings, acrylic on canvas, 25x25x3cm, Salt Projects, Truro, 2023

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 women artists Newlyn Society of Artists 125 year anniversary

painting for sale
Model children and other people, mixed media on canvas, 50x60x4cm, Tremenheere Gallery, 2021

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.

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. 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

painting for sale
Children and childlore, acrylic, oil & bitumen paint on canvas, 50x60x4cm, 2021

Small Promethean Acts, Derby, 2019

small sculptures on white domestic furniture plinth in a circular gallery with light and sound
Small Promethean Acts, installation of 50 ceramic and found object sculptures on domestic furniture, Artcore Gallery, 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 

More performance, film, and sculptural installation projects can also be seen on Delpha’s archive

a picture of the artist dressed in Empire clothing in front of the gates to an old house
A walk with Jane Austen, performance tour and film, Blossomfield House, 1999

Follow multi-media projects on @theatre of the self