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Excavating Women’s histories: nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries (3)

1 December 2022 at 4:30:00 am

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Session Convenors

Dr Sarah Scott, The Australian National University
Dr Christina Clarke, The Australian National University

Session Speakers

Melinda Mockridge, Lauriston Heritage/ Duldig Studio
Elspeth Pitt, National Gallery of Australia
Lucy Hammonds, Dunedin Public Art Gallery
Lauren Gutsell, Dunedin Public Art Gallery

Women artists and designers remain relatively unknown when compared to their male counterparts even when they were well known within their lifetimes. This is despite the publication of numerous pioneering feminist art histories including those of Cheryl Southernan and Anne Kirker in New Zealand and Joan Kerr and Jeanette Hoorne in Australia. Recent exhibitions such as ‘Know My Name’ held at the National Gallery of Australia (2021-2022) and ‘We Do this’ held at the Christchurch art gallery (2018) have addressed this lack of knowledge to some extent. However, there is still an urgent need to recover and further research these lost women, their histories and their works. This series of panels invites contributors working on women artists and designers from Australia and New Zealand to submit papers that recover these lost histories, expand known histories, or reconsider ‘the canon’ in order to include women whose opportunities within the fields of arts and ‘crafts’ were limited when compared to their male counterparts.

Searching for Slawa Horowitz – a Viennese artist and designer in Australia

Melinda Mockridge, Lauriston Heritage/ Duldig Studio

Viennese artist and designer Slawa Horowitz-Duldig came to Australia in 1940, a refugee and ‘forced migrant’ from Singapore interned here during the Second World War. One of the ‘forgotten’ women artists who fled Austria in 1938 her story is little known either in Europe or Australia.

A recent exhibition at the Duldig Studio museum in Melbourne of Slawa’s art and design used their nationally significant archives and from these much can be gleaned – but holes in the record remain hinting at the complex motivations of the artist herself when preserving, but also hiding evidence of her own career.

This paper will discuss Slawa’s career as a sculptor, industrial and furniture designer in Europe before the war, and later. Her story illuminates the ways women artists can disappear - either through deliberate erasure, as scholar Julie M Johnson has posited is the case with Austrian Jewish women artists in particular, or ‘mere’ neglect.

How one goes about reconstructing these careers when often little has been preserved in terms of documentary evidence, and, for sculptors who largely had to leave their art behind, artistic evidence, presents clear challenges to the researcher of this cohort of women creatives.

Bea Maddock, This time (1967–1969)

Elspeth Pitt, National Gallery of Australia

This time, an artist’s book written, hand-printed and hand-bound by the artist Bea Maddock originated as a walk. Having relocated to Melbourne from Launceston in search of work and opportunities for her art in the mid-1960s, she later recalled that the book ‘had no real story, it’s just about me again wandering the streets …’ Yet, a young woman navigating a new city alone was not, and is still not, an act as benign as her evasive comment suggests.

This time belongs to an expanding lineage of work made by women artists and writers in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries who moved through cities with agency and resolve. Building on the research of art historians including Daniel Thomas and Irena Zdanowicz, this paper considers the declarative, performative and poetic aspects of Maddock’s work, the richness and complexity of which warrants ongoing consideration.

Joanna Margaret Paul: Imagined in the context of a room

Lucy Hammonds, Dunedin Public Art Gallery
Lauren Gutsell, Dunedin Public Art Gallery

In 2019 we initiated an exhibition and publication based on the knowledge that there was a growing interest in the work of artist, feminist and activist, Joanna Margaret Paul (1945 – 2003), but that her presence within the art historical record was inadequate. This project was intended to secure Paul a position within the art historical record with an equal weighting to that of her male counterparts, and to provide a comprehensive understanding of her practice which has been marginalised through its subject matter and her position as a woman artist. Art historical genre hierarchies have long-perceived domestic and still-life subjects as having lesser value. The prevailing trends of the visual arts in Aotearoa in the second half of the 20th century sidelined many art practices that were anchored in the domestic experience. This paper will explore the motivations for this work, the context of the artists practice within the mid-late 20th century and the ways Paul’s practice can be used to understand the work of other women artists in Aotearoa from the beginning of the 20th century. This project is part of a wider strategy to elevate and record women artists, not only within our exhibition programme but the wider art historical discourse.



Dr Sarah Scott & Dr Christina Clarke, The Australian National University 

Sarah Scott and Christina Clarke are lecturers in the ANU Centre for Art History and Art Theory. Sarah is a historian of Australian art. She is co-editing a Routledge edited volume on cross-currents in First Nations and non-Indigenous art. Christina is a historian of metal material culture. Her current research focuses on early modern silver furnishings and Australian arts and crafts metalwork. Her monograph The Manufacture of Minoan Metal Vessels: Theory and Practice was published in 2013. 

Melinda Mockridge, Lauriston Heritage/ Duldig Studio 

Melinda Mockridge has an Honours degree in Art History from the University of Melbourne, and post graduate diplomas in Education and Cultural Heritage. She is a member of the Professional Historians Association and is an Associate Member of Australia ICOMOS. She has written interpretive materials and curated exhibitions at Duldig Studio and has contributed chapters to a forthcoming publication on Slawa Horowitz-Duldig. Currently she is working as a heritage consultant writing significance assessments for museums and archives. As well, as a curatorial associate at Duldig Studio, she is researching, cataloguing and writing interpretive material on aspects of their photographic collection. 

Elspeth Pitt, National Gallery of Australia 

Elspeth Pitt is Senior Curator, Australian Art, at the National Gallery of Australia. She has previously held curatorial, honorary research and academic roles at The University of Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia, British Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Her recent curatorial projects include Know my name: Australian women artists 1900 to now, co-curated with Deborah Hart. 

Lauren Gutsell, Dunedin Public Art Gallery 

Lauren Gutsell is Curator at Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Aotearoa New Zealand. With an emphasis on collaborative curatorial practice, her work extends across contemporary and historic art and craft, with both a national and international focus. Recent curatorial projects include Paemanu: Tauraka Toi – A landing place and Hurahia ana kā Whetū (with Paemanu: Ngāi Tahu Contemporary Visual Arts, 2021-22), Joanna Margaret Paul: Imagined in the context of a room (2020-21), Ralph Hotere: Ātete (2019-20), New Networks: Contemporary Chinese Art (2018-19) and Marie Shannon: Rooms found only in the home (2017). Recent publications include Joanna Margaret Paul: Imagined in the context of a room, Gordon Walters: New Vision and Kushana Bush: The Burning Hours.

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