Margaret Dawson
Where is she?
Tales of travel and exploration.
Abandoned House


1. "My Grandmother read biographies".
2. "Here she is!"
3. "Her scent has evaporated".
4. "Light".
5. Game
6. "We never looked into other women's handbags".
7. "Her suit's caved in".
8. "This isn't her chair".
9. Ashes
10. "I look like her?"

This exhibtion was first shown as part of the Journey's Project in which Canterbury Women Artists celebrated Suffrage Centenary with many local exhibitions and open studio days. My exhibition titled Where is she? was shown at the old school house in Ferrymead Museum in the recreated old township. The school is next to the Whitcomb and Tombs printery and only reachable by catching a train. This printery held the original machinery used to print out Kate Shepperd's suffrage pamphlets in 1893. The isolated location of this historic park is similar to that of Otira township. Being shown in out of town sites for only a short period of time enhances that this is a fleeting impression, a faint coonection to an earlier generation. There is a duality in the journey, one to reach the exhibition and secondly an attempt to go back in time.

The title Where is she? suggests a search is going on within these artworks for traces of women from the suffrage era. In particular I started looking for a sense of my maternal grandmother, amongst old familar objects. I placed the objects and clothing that may have been hers in front of the camera. I had thought it would be easy as I have such a clear picture of her in my head. It became more difficult to convey any sense of her. I wanted to find out something more about her, a sense, a trace, from these now abandoned objects. My Grandmother may have worn these or used them.

There are ten artworks composed after the style of dutch still lifes. In each photograph I have displayed mainly Victorian everyday objects. The small mural size photographs are type C from colour negatives. Each photograph is mounted onto canvas and laminated, mounted onto the wall with nails through eyelets as if it is a painting. None of the backdrops were suitable until I found an old blanket with colours of soft blue-grey flecked with brown. This looked right metaphorically representing the unknown or forgotten memories of past generations. The handwritten titles on the photographic surface acknowleges the personal and intimate nature of some of these domestic forms. This was a naivete in this search which led to a sense of loss, an emptiness, like sniffing at a dead persons clothing for a sense of them.

Domestic goods from every home sooner or later become rubbish and get thrown out. Fortunately places like Ferrymead collect examples of items used in the past and display them in a context for us to appreciate and understand something of days gone by. I was interested in the idea that without labels, without the personal associations, much of the objects that we store may later discarded as rubbish.


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