Love of the feminine kind

Louise Davidson
North Eton Pottery Store, Mackay

... "we saw him throw to swift flood/a girl alive with his hook through her lips" are lines from Dylan Thomas’s poem “The Long Legged Bait". Moved by this graphic image Louise Davidson began to draw an image of a threaded and arrowed hook through the female bodies in her work. The associations of violence and pain with the hook confront most viewers of Davidson's recent work. Associations with the emotional connections and consequences of ‘hooking up with a partner' or being 'hooked on’ a partner are subsequently often overlooked. Yet that anguish is one of the underlying sub-themes of this exhibition. There are two main themes through the show and these inform each other. An exploration of the notion of femininity informed the earlier pictures which involve the images of cocoons, seeds, and mangroves. The most recent works are concerned with the nature of falling in love and posit femininity as being part of both the male and female psyche.

The body of work has a brooding quality, a sense of positive meditation on, and an attempt to define, the mysteries within the subconscious especially in relation to one’s ‘feminine’ nature. This quality of darkness is apparent in the three drawings Amongst the Mangroves (I, II and III). In these charcoal images there is a quality of impenetrability, a quality of moments fleeting, of indefinable substance, and of seeing through the gloom. The images use the tangible world of the mangroves, which has a semblance of order but where in fact there is no regularity nor predictability, to mirror a person's internal emotional and spiritual world. To an extent all the work is autobiographical, although Davidson has chosen issues of universal concern.

Frequently used motifs include an attenuated heart with a sharp pointer implying the danger of a dagger, and the breast as either a flat circle of bloodless red or white with a contained dot of punctuation. Linking these two motifs with the threaded arrow-like hook is the overriding motif of a stylised female form. Recently Davidson has become interested in the totemic nature of some African art. Her original doll-like figures then became adorned with bindings and horizontal structures to indicate 'arms' and their form became identifiable with ancient fertility symbols.

Cocoons were developed as symbols of emotional containment: the visual expressions were either bound or darkness-enveloped oval shapes. In some works, Davidson begins to open up the cocoons with an unravelling thread that sometimes attaches to the arrowed hook. It is ironic that this hook then, in works such as The Fall II, threads through the mouth and through an eyelid to effectively modify or close communication. The seed pods or seeds eventually open, but all we are given is an interior of impenetrable darkness. The implication is that an exposure of the internal self and the opening up of femininity results only in more unknowns. We are given a representation of a locking-away of self.

Pervading the body of work is the concept of multiple realities. The impression given is that the spiritual and emotional reality is more important if not more real than the physical world. The works are compelling because they cannot be read as literary works adapted for visual display. They employ symbols which have been repeated throughout history and will be recognised in many cultures. Davidson has been able to re-view these and produce a fresh combination which effectively explores her preoccupations with the nature of femininity and love.