Wardrobe DoorNaoise in wardrobe


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Kitchen emptyPlate shelf body me

About Helen Sargeant

I am a visual artist, mother of two children aged 12 and 4, and co-founder of the MeWe arts collective. I intend to use this site to explore how my personal experiences as a mother informs my arts practice. To reflect upon the maternal in relationship to memory, loss, and mental health in particu…Read more

Website: http://helensargeant.co.uk

More posts by Helen Sargeant

6 Responses to “Hide-and-seek”

  1. Eti

    Looking at this work, which gives me a glimpse into your domestic space, I find myself thinking about how this space is an extension of the mother and how in the case of a mother who is also an artist maybe there are hidden meanings, clues and ideas that one might be able to unearth… not just the bodies visible / invisible, but a whole host of other things to discover.

  2. Helen Sargeant

    As a mother who is an artists I find myself questioning how much of who I am do I reveal, how much do I give away ?I often feel that I have disappeared, been swallowed up by what a mother does, routines, housework, emotional care and management of others. Maybe I am afraid of what I reveal, who I am. Being a mother frightens me. How I portray myself, represent myself. It is hard to work against idealised versions of mothering and their representations. I feel judged by others, what they may think. I feel that I am on the outside, looking in. I often want to hide, for the children not to find me. For my partner not to find me. I feel suffocated by them. I struggle to find a space for myself to be. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I am surprised by what I see. Where am I in all of this ?
    I find ordering and sorting of my domestic space tiresome, I would rather play, I try to make this work into play, play for myself and with my children. If I order and sort the house maybe I will find the mother that I am hiding in between the lego, the dust, the laundry pile. Life, the home is a game, a whole board game. A juggling of needs and tasks and wants between me and them. They drain me, I am emptied through art I try to fill myself up again.
    When I went to see Rebecca Lupton’s photography exhibition, The Mothers in Didsbury, I too found myself looking at the domestic spaces around the figures portrayed in the photographs, their homes, how they had arranged their spaces, objects, possessions and trying to piece together who these mothers were. How do I relate to them, how do I identify with these mothers.

  3. Eti

    It’s amazing how we all keep looking at ourselves critically, feeling like we are under some kind of maternal surveillance. Your comment about making house work into play actually made me think about how I find play demanding. My youngest son is the same age as yours and he wants me to play with him but being brought up to think of play as indulgent time wasting I do it as another chore. When there are many other competing demands I find play, or play being demanded of me the opposite of enjoyable.

  4. Helen Sargeant

    I find play really demanding as well. Its all so unending motherhood, so much of it is just very dull, and monotonous, I struggle with how play can interrupt a household task, interrupt a train of thought, I found myself close to tears today, Naoise wanted to get out every toy from under Sydney’s bed, open it up and look at it. I know that he is only curious and wanting to play and discover, but I do not feel that I can always be on his level, indulge his wishes and put my own needs aside. Why should I always feel that I should put my own needs aside ? I struggle to be patience with his play. On occasions such as this I feel that I am simmering like an egg in a pan, I am on the boil, I try to show that I am calm on the outside, when I am not on the inside. I agree with you that play can just feel like another chore, and yes the maternal surveillance is horrible, if only we could just be more honest about what motherhood is really like, perhaps some of societies high expectations of us could be eroded. Its a trap, I fall into it, I try to be a “good” mother, am I a “good-enough” mother, perhaps my biggest critic is myself. Perhaps all of this idealisation is a fiction that we ourselves have created. Perhaps the pressure of the ideal begins early on when we are children ourselves, as we watch our mothers, mothering us ? Its not my mum that has made me feel this way though. Where do I go from here ?
    Outside, out there in wide open spaces, wild places, I feel that I can play freely be happy and content with my children, be myself. Inside my head, inside my home, at playgroups, at the school gates, within the institution of motherhood, I feel confined, constrained, criticised.

  5. Kaye Heyes

    Wow, your last words are very powerful, Helen and really resonated with me. It is so difficult sometimes with all the ‘should’s’ of motherhood and the cultural ideal of a ‘good mother’ or even a ‘good enough mother’ to just let ourselves enjoy our children for the wide open people they are! (like you’re wide open spaces!).

    I admire your discipline to your practice so much. I know that the summer and start of term has been very tough in terms of childcare and the demands of domesticity. And yet, still you find time to make art, to play, to reflect on your mothering.

    As you know, my domesticity and domestic arrangements have been tested to the limit recently with the incredible damage done to our house after a 4 hour water escape devastated our entire ground floor. It has maybe taken this for me to realise how important the domestic, the everyday is, how much I miss it when it’s not there, how much I and the children need it as the background of our lives.

  6. Helen Sargeant

    The comparison of wide open spaces to children as wide open people is great. I think that it is so wonderful how women can talk openly and honestly. Women are wide open spaces too, and I think that the maternal can create a space and potential to share experience, to draw us humans together. Paula McCloskey writes about this in her post Drawing through maternal subjectivity, where she explains Bracha Ettingers theory of the “matrixial realm” and “shareability”
    Home is so central to a persons security as it provides, safety, protection, warmth, comfort, the ability to shut out the world, to close the door, to be free within ones own walls, to take refuge. It must be absolutely devastating for you and your family to have to go through this upheaval. I agree that the everyday, the familiar, the place where we sleep at night, that we can call our own and our families is fundamentally important to our happiness. All humans need a cave, a womb space that they can call their own.
    Have you ever watched Cave of the yellow dog by Byambasuren Davaa about the Mongolian nomadic family ? I was thinking about families that move constantly, erecting their homes in different sites and situations, and how through objects, materials, fixtures, ritual and relationships security is found, a home is made.


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