Installation view, viva presentation

Installation view, viva presentation

, Yvonne Yiwen Feng, 2019

My PhD research Tracing the Unspeakable: Painting as Embodied Seeing originates from the dramatic incident of my mother’s imprisonment and my state of disorientation caused by it.

The event becomes a story that I live out and turns into imagined experiences that I gain access to through drawing and painting. I attempt to take possession of the event and its psychological effects on me through my art practice. By continuously enacting mother’s narrative and negotiating my relationship with it, I explore how artmaking can impart meaning to an ongoing life event and furthermore, make possible the forming and empowerment of oneself.

This research involves studio-based investigations alongside a written report. Throughout the research, painting is employed as a methodology for exploring life experiences. In painting, I search for a language to represent the reality of my mother’s event and other events of entrapment, marginalisation and displacement. I examine how the absent and the unspeakable can be embodied in painting; how painting can open gaps for emotional and meaningful engagements in unsettled events; and whether painting is able to represent phenomena that are putatively unrepresentable.

In the written report, I reflect on my studio practice in relation to my changing relationship with mother’s narrative and my use of it to make work. I investigate the competence of painting in representing memory, events and atrocity by examining the discourse of history painting and other relevant artistic practices. I also present an analytical account of my research in phenomenology and psychoanalysis on notions of perception, emotion, embodiment, body image, trauma and the self.

Derived from the personal and moving into a wider social context, this research aims to seek new representations of existence in times of great political and cultural changes, and to offer new ways of engaging experiences of the other through embodied seeing in painting.