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My current research investigates the genre of portraiture and questions how to make portraits of women who have been affected by abuse and trauma. An individual affected by trauma feels that they are ‘not being seen… not being taken into account’ (Van Der Kolk 2014) which presupposes that portraiture may be beneficial to them in their recovery. Recovery from trauma is enabled only by feeling safe with other people (ibid.) and it is crucial that an artist working with women affected by trauma adjusts their working process to minimise harm.
I am an artist and printmaker and through my art practice, I work with women affected by domestic and sexual abuse, including an artist residency at Exeter’s women’s refuge (2013-14) and an animated film project (2014). I explored issues around portraiture of vulnerable women during my Masters at UWE (2015-18) and together with Devon Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Services (DRCSAS), we devised a ‘safe’ method of portraiture to undertake with the service users.
My PhD research is developing this initial work, and through further work with DRCSAS and their service users, my primary question is: how can I enhance their agency through portraiture? As a printmaker, I am also asking: how may the particular characteristics of printmaking support the growth of autonomy for the service user?
The academic paper for IMPACT 11 would present my initial inquiries into my doctoral research, which begins with the context for the work and continues with an examination of how printmaking may support the beneficial outcomes for the women involved. More information available from https://catherinecartwright.co.uk/portfolio/reclaim/