It is with great excitement that we introduce our March Manc of the Month, Klaire Doyle, who creates interdisciplinary artworks that explore abjection and representation of women within Catholicism, inspired from her experience of Catholic School. During the pandemic Klaire has also produced online art classes that participants of all abilities can take part in. Read on to find out more about her work, how the pandemic has changed her artistic practise and more details about her online art classes.
Cotton On MCR: Please introduce yourself and your work to the Cotton On MCR readers.
Klaire Doyle: “Hello! I’m an interdisciplinary artist and arts educator based in Wigan. My arts research predominantly investigates documentation, abjection, Catholicism and the representation of these via performance and participatory practice. I am an associate artist at Cross Street Arts, The Birley and WiganSTEAM. My work has been internationally acknowledged since 2014, including solo and group works in TATE Modern, New York City, Venice Biennale, Moscow and Helsinki. I also coordinate creative workshops online and across England. Some of my workshops have featured on itvBe!”
CO: You work in many different mediums, from painting and sculpture to film, but do you have a favourite medium you like to work in?
KD: “My favourite medium is performance art. Most of my art practice is rooted in ways of performing with and around objects, then I document this with photography and film. The body is a malleable and free tool for artists to use, and performance is a really engaging craft to create live connection between audience and artist. I was initially trained and worked as a theatre designer/scenographer, so I was introduced to the importance of live action and immersive experiences which have been essential to my practice ever since. I am a big fan of body art and performance by the likes of VALIE EXPORT and Lynn Hershman Leeson who integrate ways of seeing and ways of being via lives experiences. I always intend my own performance practice to be a catalyst for discourse with and amongst the audience.”
CO: What has inspired you to speak out against the representation of women within the Catholic church?
KD: “I grew up in catholic school and I attended catholic church every Sunday. I found it incredibly frustrating and dull, even though I recognised the architecture, teachings and decoration of the Catholic Church was fascinating and valuable. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realised the church does not hold an honourable space for women. It is not only male dominated by leaders, but its teachings isolate and shame women monumental amounts. Girls and women are not actively recognised as interesting or worthy within in its teachings, unless those women are wives, daughters and virginal. Women that are given biblical space are erased of their authentic identity as “the wife of…” or “the daughter of…” or “the virgin.” I began researching female saints and I visited their relics across Europe. I realised how many sainted and martyred women are celebrated for their virginity alone, which is infantilizing and belittling of their other lived experiences.”
“I wanted to create spaces that honour catholic beliefs within my art, but where women could be free from sexual guilt and shame. I built The Chapel – a hyper fem pink chapel that displayed quotes of women as stations of the cross. The alter piece was made of flowers and women’s hair (to honour the forgotten female relics I found). This safe space encouraged discourse with women who had previously felt uncomfortable and uneasy within Catholic spaces, even though they are practicing Catholics.”
“Another ongoing work is (Matriarchal) Reliquary which is Inspired by the reliquary that homage martyrs and sainted people. This 20-year performance documents a different woman each year as venerated reliquary via ceramic tombs to challenge Catholic dogma in hope that it reclaims fem and women’s voices.”
CO: Has the current pandemic had an impact on your arts practise?
KD: “Strangely, it has rooted my practice and encouraged me to revisit my sketchbooks! I hadn’t used a sketchbook for leisure in years, so it’s been a really valuable time to paint and doodle again without the pressure of deadlines blocking my flow. Using a sketchbook has been a kind of therapy to soothe lockdown anxiety too, which I’m really grateful for. The pandemic has also given me an opportunity to produce lots of online content for arts organisations and it encouraged me to develop my own online workshops since last May which I coordinate with Anna FC Smith.”
CO: How have you found running the art workshops online?
KD: “It has been the best thing since sliced bread! Our audience are all so talented, supportive and inspiring. It’s great to see how everyone interprets our weekly themes. The classes are aimed at all abilities and we make sure everybody walks away with a new technique learnt and a fun experience. The classes have cheered me up so much during lockdown as I get to meet creative minds and international customers from interesting places every week. We offer several classes to cater for all art enthusiasts: Themed Life Drawing (Wed 7pm), Practical Art History (Thurs 7m), Long Pose Life Drawing (Sun 11am), and recently we offer classical painting courses too. See all upcoming classes at Themed Life Drawing Online”
CO: For online life drawing classes, how has the virtual audience interaction been?
KD: “So great! In person workshops are sorely missed, but virtual spaces mean our audience can show us a tour of their office-come-studio-space on camera or they can enjoy their dinner while we draw! We always have an optional arty chat at the end of the classes where the audience are invited to show their work, exchange words of wisdom and words of encouragement. It’s fabulous to see their practice develop over lockdown in the comfort of their own homes. I think these moments of engagement have kept us all sane – they’ve certainly made me feel less isolated!”
CO: Is there anything that you have wanted to do for a long time or something planned for post-lockdown?
KD: “I really want to go to somewhere mountainous and scenic like Snowdon to print/paint/make something in the vast open space! My bedroom has been my studio space since day 1 of lockdown so I’m ready for a drastic change of scene! I am also really excited to develop the art collective I have recently launched with Georgianna Cardoso called Villages. It is focused on helping women and mothers develop their art practice via residency opportunities with peer support. We are excited to make this a much more dynamic collective with upcoming funding as soon as lockdown ends.”
CO: We love this piece, can you tell us more about this work?
KD: “I have some really long and interesting conversations via zoom with my friend and fellow artist Anna FC Smith. We recently had a ridiculously long 14-hour natter which was quite excessive and hilarious. I painted these faces while we exchanged stories about art and life and lockdown. I like to think each face is a reaction to something we said! Some of my favourite works are created with automatic drawing techniques because I don’t overthink the process.”
CO: Outside of art, do you have any other hobbies/interests?
KD: “I love to go away with my partner in their motorhome to find hidden curiosities and obscure places around the world. I also love swimming in big open water lakes. I also took up running during lockdown. I have always hated exercise, but I found it really freeing and it gave me a routine. Animals are great too – I am lucky to live in the countryside where I see lots of deer, birds and dogs!”
CO: If you could live in an artwork what would it be and why?
KD: “This is such a good question! It would have to be ‘The Water Lily Pond’ (1899) by Claude Monet. I would happily live a lifetime in any of Monet’s Water Lilies series though! I can really imagine being there and standing on that bridge, leaning over and staring into the reflective clear pool, feeling calm and content. The colours of that piece are so consuming and immersive. Even to look at, you really feel the sense of natural light, escapism and true peace. It feels like a holiday for my eyes every time I see that series!”