Seen Fifteen is delighted to announce a new exhibition of photography and painting by artists Dragana Jurisic and Catherine McWilliams. REBEL GODDESS brings together works by both artists that draw inspiration from legends of ancient goddesses as a conduit for comment on the pressing issues of our time. In Greek mythology, Gaia was the ‘mother’ of Earth who gave birth to the sky, the heavens, the sea and the mountains. Gaia is also mother to Mnemosyne, goddess of memory, and grandmother to the Nine Muses, the goddesses of artistic inspiration. She is depicted as a strong matriarchal figure who rebels against the rule of successive gods. The exhibition takes Gaia’s rebellious streak as its starting point.
Dragana Jurisic’s series 100 Muses is a chapter in the ongoing photographic project, My Own Unknown, and part of a long-term exploration into the layers of female identity. With 100 Muses the artist subverts the traditional art historical genre of the female nude and asks the question: What happens when a female photographer turns her gaze onto the female body? The one hundred subjects, who range in age from 18 to 85 years old, all answered to an open call. In the artist’s studio they were given two props: a chair and a veil, and complete control over their pose. The photographer handed editorial power to the women. Jurisic describes the process as being liberating for both herself and her sitters:
“It became a therapy session that went both ways. There were tears and laughter, and even dancing. When I asked why they felt like dancing, they said they felt free to be naked for the first time since being children. There was no expectation of sex. They were not in a doctor’s office. The stories of oppression that we shared with each other, of abuse done to many of us, was shocking to come to terms with. Every woman who participated provided a mirror. My attitude towards my own body, or shame, has changed drastically since then. I felt unburdened. I hope they did too.” Dragana Jurisic
This sense of shared experience is present in the next chapter of My Own Unknown, where Jurisic layers the nude portraits into a set of powerful multiple exposures, named Mnemosyne’s Daughters. A final work, Mnemosyne, is an overlap of all 100 Muses portraits and an expression of collective female power.
Female figures have played a central role in Catherine McWilliam’s paintings over a number of decades from the 1960s to the present day. During the Northern Irish Troubles in the 1970s and 1980s they often appeared as isolated, ghostly forms set against a bleak landscape of security barricades and dark, oppressive skies. In moments of hope during these dark times, they would metamorphose into celtic goddesses and rise above a lush green landscape with a sense of joyous freedom. McWilliams paintings during The Troubles elicit an underlying tension between the beauty of the rural countryside and the violence of civil war in the city.
“The space that she depicts around these forlorn figures does all the work. They are entrapped. They have little control or choice over their circumstances” Liam Kelly
Two new paintings, both inspired by the goddess Gaia, will be on display in REBEL GODDESS. In Green Gaia the landscape and the goddess become one. Gaia Burning represents rising concern for the landscape on a global scale. Painted over the summer of 2019, as forest fires raged out of control in The Amazon, the Gaia depicted here is a warning that our earth is fragile.