Paintings by Mum

Art Life , Exhibitions Aug 03, 2015 No Comments

From Sharne Wolff

Toward the end of last year, well-known British artist Tracey Emin rocked the proverbial boat when she questioned her ability to be an artist and a mother at the same time. Having chosen not to juggle a career and motherhood, Emin noted her belief that being a mother would “compromise” her work.

Brenda Samuels_Yakult

Despite her own family responsibilities, Brenda Samuels has always made art. Paintings by Mum, an exhibition of her recent paintings curated by her daughter and fellow artist, Miranda Samuels is the result of an inventive strategy by the pair. To allow the time and space for Brenda to focus on her art and produce an exhibition of her work, the two women came to a nonstandard arrangement where Miranda assumed many of Brenda’s usual domestic tasks. According to the gallery statement this meant that “cleaning, sweeping and mundane errands [were] ascribed artistic and economic value in the form of contemporary art; i.e. eight hours of washing, tidying and cooking = one small oil painting”.

On one level, assigning a value to household labour through the women’s agreed formula is evidence of the industrious preparation that underpins the show’s rationale – aligning it to the original 1970s campaigns to demand that housework be rewarded as labour. In addition, Brenda’s series of small brush-marked paintings of still life household consumables against dual-coloured backgrounds – Milo – cricket edition, Tuna, Yakult from Japan, Anti-ageing moisturizer among them – reflect an interest in family life as well as concerns with food production and the female ageing process. But one question remains – does this exhibition find Emin wrong?

Until August 22
Airspace projects, Marrickville
Pic: Brenda Samuels, Yakult from Japan 2014, oil on canvas, 30 x 30cm. Courtesy the artist and Sullivan and Strumpf Fine Art. Photo: Simon Hewson.

Sharne Wolff

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