Concept-material-process : exegesis in the creative practice of Jessica Steytler.
This practice-based research project incorporates practical and theoretical components which consider the relationships between the concepts, media and processes of the creative practice of the researcher, Jessica Steytler. The studio-based research focuses on combining needlework, textiles and porcelain as the key media of the study, which are used to make mixed-media artworks. The main concepts of the practice include literal and metaphorical interpretations of metamorphosis, catharsis and healing, and issues of gender-based violence in South Africa. A theoretical framework integrating feminist art, art/craft debates and materiality theory locates the study. In-depth examinations of the gendered histories of needlework, textiles and porcelain provide insight into the historical materiality of the media. This interrogation is bolstered with the studio-based research that reflects on the contributions of the physical qualities and processes of the key media. The implications of these media as ‘craft’ materials are considered in the fine art context of this degree. Judy Chicago’s feminist artwork The Dinner Party provides a precedent for the combining of the key, ‘craft’, media in a fine art context. Janice Lester’s Personal Space and Faith Wilding’s Crocheted Environment in the exhibition Womanhouse are referenced as installations that make use of the domestic, home environment as exhibition space. Louise Bourgeois’ practice contributes metaphors of cellular structures and the symbolism of sewing as repair. The studio practice of this research is discussed using a reflective approach that accounts for the insider knowledge of the researcher. This discussion pays careful attention to what the physical and historical materiality of the key media and their processes contribute to the enquiry. Thumbnail images are included alongside textual discussion to illustrate the close relationships between the media and processes and the concepts of the practice. Issues that arose during the set up of the final exhibition installation are additionally examined to highlight the importance of practitioners developing display tactics that are appropriate for their work. It is concluded that the approach taken in this research could be used by practitioners in any creative field.