Domestic Disruption is a body of work that presents bird imagery, the pigeon personifies the struggle with the domestic. Ongoing researches on the notion of home, developed into uncanny visual interpretations of interior spaces.
Searching for a sense of uncanniness, I began to explore the relationship between indoor spaces and birds, focusing on the image of the pigeon. In Entering, Nesting, and Resting the number of pigeons augments: a trail that suggests the direction of the scenes. This body of work reflects my interest in the kind of disruption that birds create when indoors and the symbolic potential of the pigeon. The work was created throughout the course of the current global health crisis; unfortunately, due to the lockdown, there have been a number of obstacles that interrupted or delayed the making of the work. Due to the exceptional circumstances, staff shortage and couriers operating with long delays, I experienced issues with the order of the bespoke aluminium panel. Living in constant uncertainty did have an effect on the production of Resting; being my largest piece and the final 'scene' of Domestic Disruption I could not accelerate the process. Although my original plan was to submit the piece finished, I can express contentment with its development; I made use of all the daylight I had to be able to present it as close to how it will look in the exhibition space. Resting should be completed by mid-June.
A pigeon is pecking at the glass window, battling its reflection, disoriented by the landscape left behind. Perhaps the darkness of the room invited such intruder, perhaps attracted by the faint light of the room,
the pigeon entered to investigate….
Oil on Aluminium
80 x 100 cm
"One need not to be a chamber to be haunted, One need not to be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
(E.Dickinson, #670, p. 516-17)
She is resting on a sofa of pigeons, companions of her domestic existence.
Resting is the final piece of Domestic Disruption.
The encounter with the pigeons occurred in the home, a space of comfort and familiarity; the pigeons appear as visitors of a space that preserves and demands privacy. The composition of the domestic landscape is focused on the dominating presence of the sofa; the sofa is ordinary, it is loved and abused; it's a piece of furniture with great symbolic significance. Reflections on my own relationship with the space I inhabit led me to investigate the purpose of the sofa; it's function is indeed to provide a communal space of rest, an intimate retreat, an escape, a cocoon of shared experiences.
The primary inspiration for the creation of Resting came from a selection of film photographs, taken at different times in various interior spaces, and later digitally collaged to form a reference for the painting.
Like theatre drapes, the fabric that masks the sofa, reveals the disruption of the interior by introducing the presence of over a dozen pigeons The draped fabric acts as a backdrop for the birds; the pigeons animate the domestic environment as active participants to the resting performance. The pigeon-stained white cloth dresses the female figure, captive to the sofa, whilst exposing the primary blood-red colour of the old sofa depicted on the bottom right corner. The softness of the draped fabric illuminates the space that otherwise would be too uncomfortable; it's shifting presence produces the appearance of a temporary, makeshift space. While her body is masked by the cloth, her face is presented almost in the centre of the composition, with an intense gaze, directed to the viewer. The eerily familiar posture of the figure is intended to evoke a quiet sense of comfort; supported by the home, the woman in repose has an erotic potential that highlights the uncanniness of the scene portrayed. A sense of absence is presented through the atmospheric depiction of the interior space, along with, the lack of cushions is suggestive of a loss of support. The domestic space portrayed is perhaps that of a waiting room, a place of transit between spaces, a possible reminder of our 'inner rooms'.
Birds are beautiful to look at, they're extremely inquisitive and intelligent; nonetheless, their presence in the home generally results in a major disturbance. In many cultures, a bird flying into the home is associated with dark mythologies, symbolisms and superstitions, indicating the advent of change as well as death. I am interested in the semiotics of the caged bird, the symbolic connection of the birdcage to contemporary urban experiences. Much like houses, cages hold restrictive and protective functions, representing themes of absence, confinement and the allure of freedom. Patrick Suskind The pigeon (1989) was the primary influence of Domestic Disruption. Suskind's novel is a disturbing and tense tale, that focuses on the disruption of a twenty-four hour period in the ordinary life of Jonathan Noel. The disturbance begins with the appearance of a pigeon in the protagonist's Parisian flat: "no human being can go on living in the same house with a pigeon, a pigeon is the epitome of chaos and anarchy, a pigeon that whizzes around unpredictably, that sets its claws in you, picks at your eyes, a pigeon that never stops soiling and spreading the filth and havoc of bacteria and meningitis virus, that doesn't just stay alone, one pigeon lures other pigeons, that leads to sexual intercourse and they breed at a frantic pace, a host of pigeons will lay siege." (Suskind, p.12) The arresting description of Jonathan's inner monologue inspired the depiction of Resting.
The presence of pigeons is essential to this body of work, although some might despise them, and refer to them as vermin, in truth we are not much different. I found pigeons to be a great symbol of domesticity, in fact, homing pigeons have an exceptional ability to always return to their homes. Human beings and pigeons live and survive in unison, we've both adapted to urban living, we share the same environments and have the same attachment for the city life. I'm fascinated by how pigeons prosper in humanity's landscape, birds that are not wild, but not fully domesticated. I find bird imagery to be a powerful source of metaphors, particularly in relation to femininity, Domestic Disruption investigates relevant connections between birds and womanhood. “Animals often become explicit or implicit vehicles for commentary on the issues, because of the ease in which they are metaphorically associated with certain human groups, especially those that seemed to share their subordinate, dependent status.” (Louise E Robbins,2002, p. 19) As the bird is often symbolic of oppression, I am interested in their potential to evoke an uncanny sense of confinement within my work.
Connections between femininity and the home have been explored; sofas are at the epicentre of domestic life, generally located in the common room of the home, a space that is historically occupied by women. The female figure is seemingly void of agency, suspended in a horizontal position, she is supported by the soft structure of the sofa.
The exploration of lived-in interiors is destined to discuss the significance of the objects we live with everyday.
Current investigations aim to locate strangeness within the ordinary; this research has been influenced by Sigmund Freud's essay The Uncanny (1919) "The uncanny would always, as it were, be something one does not know one's way about in" (Freud, p. 341) From my readings, I can conclude that the uncanny is absorbed with everything that is concealed and it embodies the process of emergence of hidden, secret darkness.“The uncanny rests precisely upon it’s opposite, both what is comfortable and homey, and what is uncomfortable, eerie, and decidedly un-homey” (Wardrop, p. 144). I'm fundamentally concerned with the depiction of this process, of familiar moments when darkness becomes visible.
Gregory Crewdson's photographic work has been an important source of inspiration throughout the creation process of Domestic Disturbance. His images present a distinctive dim, disquieting atmosphere, with a cinematic quality, element that I've been in pursuance of. Crewdson's mode of manipulating of reality to construct his own image of home, influences the design of my compositions; his unique way of capturing feelings of alienation, that fracture the routines of urban life, have inspired my research. The home was also a source of inspiration for Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010). The French-born American devoted her artistic practice to the exploration of contemporary notions of femininity, with emphasis on themes of domestic life and the home, with both positive and negative components. “The idea of a house could be very protective for women, but also very restrictive, like a prison.” (Jaussaud, 2019) Bourgeois’s Cells present her inner world through a disquieting play with memory. I'm especially fascinated by her intimate interpretation of the abovementioned themes, and by her way of creating these enclosed rooms that are both a comfort and an unsettling zone.
The folds, the highlights and the shadows that formed the sofa's drapery, were formed by a blend of textured and glazed layers of muted tones of blue, green and purple. Throughout this process, I referred to the pictorial realism of Guillermo Lorca Garcia, his paintings present ambiguous narratives that often depict animals, elegant drapery and young female figures. The artist's symbolic use of animals appears to be essential to his work, yet it demands interpretation from its audience.
Lucian Freud also painted animals, he was attracted to animals as models as much as people” (Vaizey 2016, p. 192), dogs, in fact, were a recurrent subject within his work. Freud's pungent palette of greys, ochres and siennas, has influenced my painting practice along with his ability to speak profoundly, with a unique sense of universality, about the human condition.
Oil on Aluminium
46 x 60 cm
"Where every bird is bold to go,
And bees abashless play,
The foreigner before he knocks
Must thrust the tears away."
(E.Dickinson, #1758, p. 1179)
The encounter with the pigeons.
The creation of Entering began with a weekend trip to Paris. I stayed in a studio flat on the top floor of a building in the 1st arrondissement of Paris.
The architecture of the building gave the idea of the luxury and the splendour of the city. Indeed the building was a hotel in the past and when its fortune fell it was converted into flats. The interior space was reminiscent of a 19th-century maid's room; theatrical structures divided the attic flat into a small sitting area, a kitchenette, a bathroom and a bedroom.
This old Parisian flat, reminded me of the setting of Jonathan Noel's story, that Patrick Suskind beautifully narrated in The Pigeon. I took photographs of the interior space in different times of the day. I began to notice how, the early morning light would shine through the overhead window, providing soft illumination for the words of the paper left on the small round table. The sleeping area was sufficiently separate to preserve darkness. Suddenly, I saw a potential for disruption, mystery and transcendence.
I reconstructed this eerily quiet Parisian nook, in layers of paint applied in glazes of light and dark shades of green. At first, green was a necessity, conductive to a more faithful representation of the pigeons. Right after Nesting, the colour green became a distinguishing element that enriches the compositions without overburdening them. Sheer layers of Italian green umber saturate previous brushstrokes; a green that can be both warm and cool, it unifies all the elements and refines the feeling of disruption.
I focused on the emotional impact that the disruption and the unsettling darkness of the setting would have on the female figure. Her nude body emerges from the shadows, as she enters the room she experiences the uncanny event of encountering the pigeons. I aimed to capture a single instant, evoking and presenting an intimate moment to the viewer. Entering presents a selection of symbolic elements, including the door, representative of an opening, an opportunity, a possibility or transition.
Entering displays the adoption of the chiaroscuro technique, notably used in the paintings of Caravaggio (1571-1610). The intensity of his compositions, his dramatic portrayal of situations and subjects through tonal contrasts, lights and shadows, have had a strong influence on my practice. Another notable influence was the pervasive chiaroscuro lighting of Film Noir, which produces striking visual effects that highlight the dark and surreal nature of this style of filmmaking.
Edward Hopper (1882-1967) has also been an important influence on my work. In many of his paintings, Hopper defines the psychological state of his subjects through interior urban landscapes. Trough voyeuristic perspectives, the artist reveals his interior realm meaning through omission and symbolism. Themes of loneliness and adriftness dominate his paintings; the reflective and melancholy nature of his subjects is highlighted by bare indoor spaces of contemplation.
Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864–1916), the Danish painter of solitude and light, also informed my work, as he focuses on the domestic interior as the primary subject of his paintings. Hammershoi informed my artistic practice through his contemplative depictions of ordinary activities, domestic interior spaces and his austere melancholic atmosphere.
Oil on Aluminium
61 x 61 cm
"We deem we dream
And that dissolves the days
Through which existence strays
Homeless at home"
(E.Dickinson, #1573, p. 1084)
The disruption began with Nesting.
A young woman is bundled up in a duvet of pigeons.
Nesting presents a domestic space, a resting place, a nest for the pigeons and the female figure portrayed. The room is seemingly presented as a familiar place of comfort, perhaps a place of refuge, a sanctuary, or an escape from the outside world. The disruption is revealed in the makeshift quality of the bedroom. The depiction of the interior space speaks for my own struggle with the notion of the home; the bird imagery is the tool I chose to adopt to illustrate the comfortable nesting nature of the home, while implicitly representing an uncanny sense of trapness.
The struggle with the home is expressed within the design of the composition. The bruised colour palette was adopted to illustrate an arresting environment, a tense atmosphere and a sense of confinement. Dozens of pigeons are camouflaging, hiding in the desaturated blue-grey cover of the feather duvet. The home becomes an inhabited place of nest, but these nests are not located on some hidden corner, indeed the bed is the nesting place, a place they will return to, in some time, to nest again.
Through Nesting I aimed to capture an intense moment, with unsettling orderliness, that speaks of the female figure and her relation to the interior space. Ordinary moments of mundane activity also examined by Prudence Flint, a Melbourne based artist. Her depictions of interiors, together with her interest in womanhood, influenced my research on the relationship between women and domestic spaces. She states: "I want to give voice to this experience of being alive, now, in this culture, as a woman.” (Prudence Flint, 2020 Juxtapoz interview) Feelings of homelessness are present within this work. For this reason, the creation of Nesting has been influenced by Emily Dickinson. Dickinson's poems highlight her struggles with identity and womanhood. Her work challenges the notion of home, suggesting an uncanny feeling by often describing it as eerily unfamiliar. I discovered numberless references of home within her poems, although she viewed the home as a safe space, Dickinson couldn't help but feel "homeless at home".
I believe the above-mentioned poem, to be the ideal description of alienation, the poet also speaks about issues of belonging, a universal theme which plays a great role in my work.
This eerily quiet scene invites the viewer into an obscured narrative; the viewer emerges as intruder or voyeur of this private nesting moment. I chose not to place the young woman in the centre; her face emerges from the margins of the room, claiming her space, while her body is concealed and shielded from exposure, immune to the viewer's gaze. The breeding pigeons surround the cocooned woman, who's gaze, seemingly unaware of the disturbance, is intensely engaging with the viewer. This unsettling stare was intended to be as ambiguous as the narrative, perhaps her gaze is viewed as an invite, perhaps it discourages contact. Although this is intended to be a shared nesting space, the visual disconnection between the figure and the birds is suggestive of the woman's relationship with the disruption.
In the making of this body of work, I revisited my childhood passion for birds and rediscovered a unique fondness for pigeons. Finally, the pigeon has become the ultimate representation of disruption, a natural disturbance of my deeply urban reality.
I will be using French Cleats to hang my work to the exhibition walls. This hanging system will require a number of holes to be drilled into the wall so that the cleat is able to hold the aluminium panels straight with no chance of shifting.
I decided to show the three pieces of Domestic Disruption separately, for the viewer to view independently, to allow each piece breathing room even though I believe their connection will be apparent even from a distance.
Degree Show Mockup
Unit 91, Copeland Park, 133, Copeland Rd, London, SE15 3SN