After visiting an exhibition about the history of the Thames at Morley Gallery, I wanted to explore the river in the Victorian era further. In my research, I discovered that the bridges along the South Bank were a popular spot for female suicides. The tragic plight of these women inspired authors, artists and playwrights alike, and seized the public’s imagination.
What I found surprising was the concept of 'a fallen women', judged according to the morals of victorian society, gaining redemption through the act of drowning. They were not just prostitutes, but young women, often unmarried mothers from all classes. Having recently lost both my mother and sister, I have been exploring the value of women, and how society completely undermines their contributions and burdens.
This group of figures pay homage to the ghosts of the women, and highlight the issue of female suicide, both in the victorian era and through to today. I was inspired by the wrapped cloak and layered clothes 'binding' the the young woman and her child together, as portrayed in the etching. Having completed some initial preparatory drawings, I began ‘sketching’ in three dimensions, experimenting with wire and strips of fabric; binding shapes and forms. I then developed the silhouettes and abstracted them into more elongated forms.
Japanese aesthetics and African influences inform my work. At college we explored the process of cyanotype printing which I used to create the patterned blue fabric. Using antique lace samples as a stencil, I created cyanotype prints on silver birch bark. I used rusting as a process to create the marks, patterns and colours of the other pieces of fabric. Mud larking the Thames supplied the clay pipe heads and stems. The figures stand on a piece of reclaimed timber from a Waterloo construction yard.
The Bridge of Sighs
Great Britain, Uk (etched)
19th Century (made)
John Everett Millais, born 1829 - died 1896 (etched)
Etching on paper
V&A collection reference number(s):