Lydia Corry and Caroline Walker: Love is an Ocular Sickness
Different approaches to exploring history of representing woman
Lydia Corry and Caroline Walker explore constructions of femininity through a history of representing women in art, as Talitha Kotzé discovers
The symptoms of mental illness have often been used to describe the state of being in love. Plato discussed love as a serious mental disease. Lydia Corry and Caroline Walker established the concept of their show by rummaging through his writings on love and became particularly intrigued by the way he describes vision in terms of a physical exchange between the eye and the object of perception.
The exhibition brings together Walker’s paintings, which operate within the language of realism, referencing an illusionistic painting history, and Corry’s installations, which often deliberately contradict this. ‘We both explore constructions of femininity where images are actively engaged in a subjective ambush,’ explains Walker. ‘The show will set up formal relationships between the works in the space. For example Lydia’s floor piece made out of kitchen lino refers to the space depicted in my paintings.’
The mechanics of looking – receiving and returning information – is key to both their practices, and the show specifically draws on a history of representing woman. However, they adopt these approaches in very different ways.
Corry draws on imagery from popular culture and explains that she has always found magazines fascinating as an anthropological record of the performance of woman. ‘I grew up loving my mum’s collection of Vogue, the earliest dating from the 1930s,’ says Corry. ‘The lyricism of the repeated gestures within them is both alluring and terrifying. This has formed a key interest and developed more broadly as an investigation into the semantics of female depiction from antiquity to present day.’
Whereas the surface in Corry’s drawings is flat and part of a reductive process that mediates popular imagery into signs or symbols, Walker employs the recurring feminine gesture common to the female subject of Western painting history. She represents woman as a template, rather than portraiture, often placing her in a domestic environment with the gaze point slightly elevated, merely observing. She revisits Manet because of the balance in his work between the female subject as fiction and the painted space itself as illusion. ‘Manet used the same model for a number of paintings, turning her into different characters,’ says Walker, recalling the prostitute in ‘Olympia’ and the matador in ‘Mademoiselle Victorine Meurent in the Costume of an Espada’ among others. ‘As the subject she was unimportant, becoming a figure onto which different ideas of femininity were projected. In my work, a similar exploration is in play. I use the same model who becomes another prop in a constructed domestic scenario which is fabricated or staged through the painting process.’
Corry and Walker both studied at The Glasgow School of Art, but it was only when they relocated to London to do their Masters at the Royal College of Art that they met for the first time. The links between their work and the thinking behind it seemed very familiar, suggesting it might be a product of GSA. It is for this very reason that they chose to show their work together in Glasgow. Their title statement has become a way to exhibit together and in future they aim to open up the dialogue of discussing female imagery in representation with a larger group of artists.
Lydia Corry and Caroline Walker: Love is an Ocular Sickness, Intermedia, CCA, Glasgow, Fri 3–Sat 18 Dec.