Painting and Feminism

Helen Chadwick endlessly challenges the limitations posed against women by the two influential notions of science and Christianity as far as the issue of mother hood is concerned. The former (science), according to Chadwick, entirely overlooks the motherhood role played by females, while the latter (Christianity) views motherhood as an impossible elsewhere, sacred and a foundational sort of a subject: the point where the subject and its voice divorce, break loose and disappear! These issues are adequately captured in Chadwick’s work ‘One Flesh’ which is renowned for the informed  selection of dressing and the effect carried by the closing of eyes of the mother and the touch of disintegration posed on the body by the collage. 

The ‘One Flesh’ work is picture of a mother with her baby child which has prevalent gold, blue and red colors with s rectangular display adorned by a triangular top symbolizing an altar piece.  Apparently this really appears a strange theme for a contemporary artist like Helen to explore, however, this work I centered upon an all-period theme of Christian religious imagery that artists have explored for many a centuries.  This picture deconstructs a multiplicity of Christian female sexual representation conflicts in the 20th and 21st centuries.  

In the picture, while the mother's right hand is points to the sexual organ of the child (which is female) the left is cutting the child’s cord that hangs loosely. The chord’s end is still attached to the placenta, which is float like a haunting halo above the head of the mother. Chadwick dubs the floating placenta the "uncanny object", which she says joins the mother and the child to a heavily bonded "biological trinity". It (the placenta) separates the bluish background of the larger picture and acts as a pointer to a golden area, where a vagina, adorned with pierced jewels, takes the very top o occupy the normal elevated position of a symbolic moon. A keen look further reveals two knitted child’s shoes at the bottom of the wooden prayer bench which kind of resemble the vagina though are difficult to identify.  

The mother is dressed in a ‘magnificent’ red cloak, fundamentals of cord about the face.  Her jewellery show extravagant richness and plenitude and is an emphasis on the elements of beautification. Ultimately, the iconography of two aspects of the elements the virgin are brought out: that of the Christian queen Mary has seen by extravagant beauty and that of the nurturing and lactating female Mary Lactans.

Chadwick’s ‘One Flesh’ presents the instance when the imaginative paternal quality of motherhood assumes power, gets recognizable and easily presentable, making her work highly iconographic and energetically rooted in tradition. This paternal quality turns into regret immediately the child turns out to be an object and not the subject that it was hope by the mother. This regret comes when the mother becomes disappointed in giving birth to a female instead of male. Chadwick’s bold steps to capture this instance in a painting evidently takes the stakes higher and launches the contemporary creation of the visual language that vividly captures such unexplainable moments. In an ironic twist, it is also the mother herself conducts the ‘cutting’ of the chord as if to regain her full control over the faculty of maternity a hard hit on the modern day practices in hospitals where the father is called to perform the cutting so as to make him feel a part of the delivery process. 

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