27 May 2017

Jacqueline Fahey - Cutting loose

From Saturday Morning, 9:35 am on 27 May 2017
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Photo: Supplied

Jacqueline Fahey was one of the first New Zealand artists to paint from a woman's perspective, illustrating "the theatricality of domestic life" and, in the 1950s, the crippling isolation of women in the suburban family home.

Fahey is also a writer of two memoirs and two novels.

Fahey says she's always been a rebel.

She lost belief in God aged eight when the nuns at her Catholic boarding school girl said that her pet dogs hadn't gone to heaven.

"Well, if they didn't go to heaven I wanted to go where they went."

Fahey now describes herself as not a lapsed but a 'fallen over' Catholic and she doesn't resent the church.

"With those nuns, there was a lot that was superior in terms of ideals. If you can get around the fact that women are discriminated against in the Catholic church… and you read the lives of the saints when you're, say nine or ten, that's inspiring. These are women who make up their minds and they get going and achieve what they want to achieve in the face of all sorts of opposition."

Fahey had her share of opposition from men as a young painter.

"They'd say, "Well, you have to leave it to the men because they've got a wife and children to support. What? What's that got to do with insight and the drive to create?"

The domestic settings of her paintings is an assertion that the home as an important arena and reality is not 'elsewhere', she says.

"The real dramas don't happen in the boardroom, they happen in the kitchen. That's where husband and wife work out the realities of their lives."

Fahey says the world a bizarre place and this fuels her enquiry into life.

"It's all random, it's all by chance. And how we have developed is again another chance and the chance isn't looking good now. Greed and stupidity seem to be winning. Why is that? How is that?"

She is still painting, often working on two or three paintings at once.

"I have to have my hand in all the time. I dare not leave it … because if inspiration strikes I will have the weapon at hand to form something, to make something."

The Christchurch City Gallery will exhibit a retrospective of Jaqueline Fahey's paintings from the 1970s at the end of this year.

The panel discussion referred to in the interview is below:

 

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