Monday, June 23, 2014

In Conversation ... Margot Westhorpe

We recently took a work experience student on board here at THG, a lovely young man named Michael from Camberwell Grammar. With the ongoing success of Margot's current exhibition at the Quest Hawthorn Community Project Wall we asked Michael to put some questions to Margot in an effort to gain some further insight into her work. The photographs of her art were taken by Michael as well. Top job young man!

How would you describe your work, what are the major themes present?
I would like to describe my work as engaging the viewer in the complex understanding of the ways in which we construct our identities. Identity is a social construct. Who we are and the ways we understand ourselves, are determined by the society in which we live and the cultural patterns we adopt. While gender and ethnicity shape who we are, so does our religion, language and socio economic status. 

As we are shaped and indeed fashion our own identities, we draw on objects from the world around us to indicate to others who we are. These outward displays of identity extend to the ways in which we “decorate” our homes as well as ourselves. In fostering and projecting the external nature of our identities, icons such as recognisable brands or established markers allow others to know us. Now and then, however, the external traits which have been embraced may hide the true self.

How do you use the materials that you use to express these themes?
The works presented in this exhibition use a variety of materials in order to express my ideas related to identity and the ways in which we display our identities to others. The broken and delicate remains of fine bone china is used in order to depict the ways in which women of the 20th century self identified and subsequently were identified by others. Their socio economic status was recognised in the delicate tea sets and china they possessed. Similarly, the embroideries that they completed reflected their accomplishments in the sphere in which women dominated - the home - and thus "allowed" them to have the identity of "female". In addition, the religious icons placed "on their walls" confirmed who they were to others.

In order to reference the shared language of the times, I have backgrounded many of the works with the deconstructed pages of the celebrated encyclopaedias of my childhood. In attaching labels to the various media, I have endeavoured to link and bring together what may seem disparate images and ideas. These labels also reflect the ways in which we stereotype individuals; labelling them as the “owner” of a particular and immutable identity.

What does combining 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional art work allow you to express that just one of the two may not?
In adopting mixed media I aim to replicate the complexity of our lives and our identities. The sources and origins of an individual's identities are multiple and continually changing. The "sculpting" of a work is an attempt to enhance the metaphor of the multiple.

Who or what are some of your influences or inspirations?
The work of the great conceptual artists of the 20th century has influenced the way I imagine and present my ideas and thoughts.

What is your work practice like, do you work from a studio or from home? 
My work practice is both intense and interrupted. Once an initial idea is conceptualised I begin the more intensive investigation of its possibilities and elaboration through the creative process. It is not uncommon for a “finished” piece to be discarded because it does not meet my expectations of conveying the current overall theme or notion that I am exploring.

I work in a small studio space at home which offers me the freedom of independence and flexibility. 

What achievements are you most proud of to date? 
Having the Town Hall Gallery accept my proposal and exhibit this group of works has been very exciting.

I am particularly proud of completing a PhD thesis on Chinese Identity. It is from this work that my interest in the ways we construct our identities originates.

What do you like best about what you do?
Being able to explore ideas and work towards expressing them in an imaginative and creative way is exhilarating.

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