drawing on two worlds (2010–2015)


Drawing on Two Worlds, (2010–2015) is a practice-led project that addresses issues of cultural dispossession and personal identity.

Drawing on Two Worlds is a metaphor for both Janet McKenzie’s professional and personal life, on a number of levels, being Australian and an adopted Scot, a researcher and a primary carer. The research is informed by the fact that many women, in the 21st century, in the event of serious illness and death, often revert to traditional female roles. Acute isolation results, which is damaging for families and for the cohesion of society. The uncertainty of long-term terminal illness requires the closest relatives to deal with grief outside of normal support systems.

Related issues exist in societies where forced migration, (war, political strife) and cultural diaspora isolates individuals. A study of historic examples of dispossession and loss, by women can establish parallels on three levels individual, community and societal.

Practice-led collaborations have the potential to build bonds between individuals, enable sharing and contextualize isolating experiences.  The project proposes to investigate collaborative drawing as a means to determine whether providing the opportunity to address issues in this way can in turn provide knowledge and understanding for an audience beyond a visual arts.

Art is key to the cultural and spiritual rebuilding of lives that have been damaged through cultural diaspora and loss.  Drawing on Two Worlds will undertake an exploration of personal identity using drawing as a primary means of expression. A study of visual arts practice at individual and community levels in two countries – Scotland and Australia - linked historically but with very different societies will focus a study of broader paradoxes relating to Identity, that exist within global culture.

The dispossession of Gaelic communities in the 19th century led to settlement in Australia by a significant numbers of Scots. White settlement of Australia, in turn, led to the destruction of Aboriginal culture and the dispossession of Aborigines from their land. These issues have been and continue to be addressed in the visual arts with international and political implications, for present and future migration, and to the sustainability of cultural expression and identity at national and community levels.

A dialogue will be established with practicing artists who will address issues that have both historic precedent and personal application (dispossession/bereavement), enabling the visual research to be documented, tested, appraised in terms of its relevance to wider applications, combining a personal subjective stance, with a conceptual approach. Global issues of cultural dispossession and loss can thus be addressed with poignancy and commitment by individuals who themselves have experienced loss on a personal level, yet have exhibited their ability to adapt personal experience to address universal issues. A feminist agenda underpins the objectives of Drawing on Two Worlds, where personal experience is validated. Collaborative Drawing as methodology is a cutting edge application of a practice, but one capable of achieving precision in the exploration of human experience.

The fundamental premise of Drawing on Two Worlds is, that by placing the visual arts at the heart of a research project, which seeks to explore Identity using a feminist agenda, a new focus can be established, which is beneficial on creative and critical levels. Drawing itself will lend to the documentation of process, a sensitive language in terms of precise definition of ideas.

The project will undertake a series of four research projects to: investigate visual representations, of women's experiences from 19th century to the present day, in Scotland and Australia; contribute to future development of visual and cultural studies in both countries; and so seek to merge practice-led research with art history and critical research.