Together To Grow
Foreword by Rebecca Sharp, writer and friend.
New identities are born in this audaciously intimate exhibition by Jill Skulina. Representations of female figures flicker playfully between archetypal Goddesses and narrative personal portraits. Figures are at once ethereal, vulnerable, and powerfully embodied. Scenes convey imperfection with an immediacy that suggests hidden layers, body and soul only just being held together. A careful, fragile balance is being maintained: the works negotiate their terms through interwoven conversations of line, vibrant colour, texture and form. Offerings are made (seen literally in what could be a serving dish or collection plate) that question the cost of it all. Forms and objects hold space, protective and nurturing – as much as they acknowledge uncertainty and instability. Faces etched with worry and at other times, bliss. We see materials and thresholds under pressure – lines worked into clay; surfaces cracked and perforated; contours pinched, pulled and torn. Constructions demonstrate the effort and anxiety inherent in maintaining boundaries, while at the same time creating space for new forms to grow.
Across all the work, there is a sense of incubation – a quiet evocation of the tension between constriction and expansion. There is a bittersweet wisdom to these worlds-within; a core power and warmth amidst the turmoil – the assurance that inside these images of intimacy, something profound is taking shape.
Jill makes work depicting memories of life events. In recent years handmade dolls evolved into cocooned, encased, and surrounded figures and portraits using found dolls, crochet, ceramics and plaster. These works are memorials to concealment of thoughts and feelings, deceiving the outside world that we are coping, while also showing emotional transformation and strength. Using crochet as a representation for 'female' crafts and the historic domestic ideal, she make strong, nurturing work from her own experiences of motherhood; worries, trauma, guilt, regret, potential societal projections and expectations.
Within her most recent work there are goddesses, madonnas and celestial beings depicting out of body experiences; disconnection from reality; absence of baby, nurture and joy; but also revelations, transcendence and freedom from what has come before. Over the last two years Jill has been exploring how clay can be used as a canvas to express these ideas using drawing and painting on ceramic sculptures, plates and vessels.
Together To Grow is Jill’s first solo show and has been supported by WASPS Meadow Mill Curatorial Committee and Visual Artist and Craft Maker Award Fife. Jill lives in Newport and has had a studio here in Meadow Mill since 2007; she is a professional member of the Society of Scottish Artists and an active committee member at Dundee Ceramics Workshop.
Big huge thanks to Liz Skulina, Rebecca Sharp, Alan Richardson, Louise Ritchie, Paola McClure, Helen Angell-Preece, Cally Booker, Jen Robson and Cate Mackie.
And much love always for my tiny family - Me, Bea, and the two fur babies.
Finale – John Williams, Fiddler On The Roof.
While Isobel was in hospital I had to breast pump twice through the night and would watch musicals to keep my spirits up. Fiddler On The Roof was a go to as was Chicago and Calamity Jane. Fiddler on The Roof also used to sooth Bea when we got her home.
Can’t Hold Us Down (feat Lil’ Kim) Christine Aguilera
Hay Ya – Outcast
Try – Folklore Nelly Furtardo
Hella Good – No Doubt The Singles 1992-2003.
We spent a bit of time in the car driving back and forth to the hospital and these are the songs that stick in my memory. Sometimes we’d be in high spirits going to see Isobel and these radio songs would pep us up, more often than not we’d come crashing down after speaking to the nurses or the Drs.
A Place Called Home – PJ Harvey
Album - Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. I used to listen to this cd pretty much none stop in the car while I was pregnant.
Seven Nation Army – White Stripes
You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket – White Stripes
Album – Elephant. This album came into car cd rotation when I was pregnant. The NICU nurses suggested bringing in music that I listened to while pregnant to sooth Isobel. I recorded both these cd’s onto a cassette, which the nurses would play when she became unsettled, it always did the trick.
Rid of Me - PJ Harvey
Sheela-Na-Gig - PJ Harvey
Bea’s dad is an alcoholic and would never let me express my anger (or any other emotion) to him after a night of him being a dick. He’d always come in apologetic, saying “don’t talk about it, it’s embarrassing”. These songs and many more helped me through the inner rage.
Mother/Oh Mein Papa – Siouxsie and The Banshees
Lullaby – The Cure
I have used Mother/Oh Mein Papa in previous performance work. Its atmospheric and sinister vibe alludes to our parents unintentionally messing us up in later life. There was also a little tinkly wind up music box my Mum bought to put in Isobel’s hospital cot.
Too Drunk To Fuck – The Dead Kennedys
This choice represents Danny’s drunkness more than his inability to fuck. A few examples of what I had to deal with both while we were together and separated; deciding he was leaving me to live in the woods; passing out on the gravel driveway with a lidless bottle of vodka in hand at 2pm; drunk and disorderly nights in police cells; suicide attempts.
Confessions Of A MILF – Viv Albertine.
The weirdness of falling into domestic life after we got Bea home and Danny went to work. Turned into a proper housewife, what is that all about?
Breathing – Kate Bush
NB. You might notice I use both Isobel and Bea when talking about my child; the baby we had in hospital was Isobel when she made it home she became Bea.