Hanna Isseyegh (b. 1980, London, UK) is a visual artist currently living outside of Dublin. She worked in the print industry before her first child was born. During her time at IADT, she has used art to reconnect with her identity and process her experience of motherhood. Isseyegh’s practice includes expanded print, mixed media, textiles and drawings. Her work explores caregiving within a society that places unrealistic expectations on mothers, while providing inadequate support. She also highlights the unseen labour behind the work of artistic production. She has exhibited in Afterthought (United Arts Club, 2020) and Propositions (IADT campus, 2022).
My work explores and challenges social ideals of being a mother. I am making the personal public and using my own experience to directly communicate the mixed messages received and conflicting emotions felt. My work challenges the myth of the perfect mother by making visual the hidden complexities of the maternal experience. The conflict between the seen and the unseen, between the public representation of motherhood and the lived experience of mothering is what interests me. I hope that my work might start a conversation. My creative practice is visceral, experimental, and exploratory. My process is labour intensive and involves drawing, collage, paper cutouts, printing and textiles, with a strong emphasis on craft. I want the audience to see the hand of the artist in the finished work. This is one of the reasons that I use mixed media and include techniques that were traditionally deemed women's work.
Everybody has had the experience of being and coming from the womb of a mother. Many people have also been mothered, and most have seen mothering take place, some have mothered themselves. So why is the maternal experience shrouded in mystery? Why is the maternal experience marginalised? These questions are addressed in this thesis by exploring how maternal experience is being explored in contemporary Irish art practice. It contextualises the maternal experience in relation to Ireland’s history, while also drawing upon semiformal interviews conducted with artists Aideen Barry and Jesse Jones. These interviews, conducted over Zoom, were guided by the questions above. The findings from the primary research are interwoven with theoretical secondary research, alongside my observations and analysis of the artworks. A discussion on the ways in which systems of power have been used to control women's bodies within maternal experience are linked with an analysis of how shame has affected maternal experience within Ireland. Maternal representation and experience are discussed through the framework of feminist theory, and this is linked with the practice of contemporary Irish artist Aideen Barry’s performative film Enshrined and Jesse Jones’ multimedia installation Tremble Tremble. All research is viewed through a lens of sociological and feminist art theory and art history. During my research, a link with contemporary art practice and strategies of activism became apparent leading to a new line of enquiry. Penultimately the position of maternal art practice within the canon of contemporary art is established.