The Cleft by Doris Lessing

Don’t you just love a book’s ability to take you to another place?!

Over the last few years I have been making drawings and garment-like objects that allow a new look at familiar places. I choose a place, or a type of place, that I am interested in exploring … an island, a church, a childhood haunt … and then delve into the many ways that this place has been portrayed. I look at maps and paintings, photographs and films, but mostly I look to literature.

Most recently I have been interested in islands. The island I grew up on, the island I live on now and the islands of the many books I have read.

The book that has been most influential on this project, is the literary novel, The Cleft by the amazing Doris Lessing. The author uses an unnamed island as a setting for the mythology of the beginnings of woman and man. The contrast between land and sea acts as a metaphor for the separation between the genders. This relationship between place and gender is a recurring theme in my work and to see it so skillfully explored in this book gave me goosebumps.

When I read a book for an art project it is different than reading it for pleasure. I am looking for the phrases that allow my mind to wander, to go on a journey outside of the narrative. The new body of work I am developing, has grown in part, from the phrase ‘… the horizon of her mind was limited by the mountain…’. These words create for me a vivid image of the limitations that place can put on an individuals growth. The mentality of a place, its traditions, languages, rituals as well as its geography are influential in the development of an individual character.

Below is my newest piece, titled ‘We are sea people. The sea made us.’
It has been a slow process but I think I am happy with it. There will be more to come in the near future.

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4 thoughts on “The Cleft by Doris Lessing

  1. When I first moved to Victoria, I intended for my work to be about islands. I soon realized that everything is an island, waiting to dissolve around the edges… masses of different sizes and speeds. Is a book akin to an island? Is the body? I get the sense you are thinking of this. I may be stating the obvious.

    Beautiful project, Anne.

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