About face: renegotiating the self and the family through grieving

McCalman, Jillian (2001) About face: renegotiating the self and the family through grieving. Research Master thesis, Victoria University of Technology.


This Master of Arts takes the form of artworks for exhibition, and exegesis. The project involved investigation of the relationship between the grieving process and the art making process. This has been a highly personal journey of reclamation and reconciliation with the aim of understanding and healing painful and unresolved areas in my life related to the deaths of my parents at when I was too young to understand the emotional and intellectual consequences. The project has therefore been concerned with my going back over these events, gaining a fuller understanding them and responding to them through my art practice. Becoming aware of what the grieving process entails has informed the work to a large degree, as has my subsequent engagement in this process. Extensive research into bereavement theory has therefore been essential and has guided much of the artmaking. The project also involved a reassessment of how I had interpreted the events in my life, so as to break old and inappropriate models of thought. Readings on philosophical hermeneutics has provided this intellectual framework within which I could transform ideas into artwork. A study of contemporary artists was valuable in helping me contextualise my practice and expand my conversations in relation to art and grieving. A different approach to my art practice was essential for this new psychological terrain. I was impelled to extend and expand my studio practice by experimenting in a variety of media, and then applying the photocopy and computer processes to these. This resulted in a body of work quite different from any I had made hitherto. This work aims to renegotiate my personal history and reassess notions of identity. Accordingly, I have used portraiture as a vehicle for dialoguing with my history. This takes the form of and portraits of my family, which serve as connecting agents for my memory and emotions. The exhibition work consists of an installation of large silk fabric panels, and a selection of collage works on paper. The exhibition is a commemorative act—the work serving as a memorial to my parents and my family. The making of the work is for me a 'laying of the dead to rest', according them their rightful place, and thereby allowing myself the opportunity to make peace with difficult and burdensome past.

Additional Information

Master of Arts

Item type Thesis (Research Master thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/18191
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Communication and the Arts
Historical > FOR Classification > 1701 Psychology
Historical > FOR Classification > 1905 Visual Arts and Crafts
Keywords bereavement, grief, modern art, exhibitions, face in art
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