A feminist critique of the concept of home in the work of selected contemporary white South African female artists.
In this dissertation I analyse and contextualise stereotypical notions associated with the concept of home, and what that constitutes, in the work of South African artists Antoinette Murdoch, Bronwen Findlay, Doreen Southwood and Penelope Siopis, each of whom displays a different perspective of the concept in their artwork. I further consider how these selected South African artists engage with the dichotomies surrounding issues of home and the gendered position assigned to women in this area. I address the strategies the selected artists use in bringing the realm of the private sphere into the public arena and how they transgress the boundaries of private and public spaces. In addition I consider how concepts of home are reflected in my own work and how they are informed by a feminist perspective. The choice of white female artists as the subject of this research is a conscious one, in that I wish to avoid an investigation into cross-cultural gendered subjectivities which will inevitably become entangled with questions of race, politics and culture. As western feminist thought often tends to ignore the specific experiences of ethnic groups located outside western cultural experience, my focus on artists whose context is in part shared by my own is intended to provide an insider perspective. In the context of this research, 'home' is defined as a traditionally acknowledged place where woman is identified in relation to domesticity and the family unit. The term 'home' is therefore partly applicable to a type of domestic environment regardless of its geographic and cultural associations. Home has been defined as a 'group of persons sharing a home or living space (whereas) most households consist of one person living alone, a nuclear family, an extended family or a group of unrelated people' (Scott and Marshall 2005:276). The home is regarded as a place of security where the most intimate of relationships takes place, but it is also an arena of complex human relationships associated with domestic, family, personal and cultural identity. The home is further regarded as a private space and as being somewhat inaccessible, as opposed to the public domain which is open to scrutiny. The home houses a corridor of emotion, however, and may often become a place of entrophy. A subtle shifting and subverting of the conventions which society places upon women and men to conform to particular behavioural constructs will be deconstructed to reveal the concept of home as a site where the boundaries between reality and illusion become blurred. My own artistic practice is concerned with the deconstruction of the home as an idealised space and the façade that often conceals a dystopian reality that lurks beneath such idealisation. I share assumed cultural and class values with the selected artists and will critique the subject from a personal perspective, in part as a self-narrative. Within the context of this research, the term 'middle class' is defined as 'the class of society between the upper and working classes, including business and professional people' (The Oxford English Dictionary 1994:509).