Marrying tradition with tale, ‘Cleansing Rituals’ explores customs with fable aspects.
The work investigates premarital ceremonial ‘cleansing’ with natural elements; soot, salt and feathers, all thought to possess holistic virtue with purifying properties carrying protective and fertilising powers.
Scottish writer Margaret Bennett’s Customs: From the Cradle to the Grave yielded the body of work with biographical narrative. Bennett’s interview material and manuscripts notes describes archival recounts involving soot being rubbed onto the skin prior to ‘feet washing’ in order to cleanse and bring luck. Other occurrences describe finding the ring of a woman who has been in an enduring marriage in a chamber pot filled with salt. The events have been adapted with a lyrical approach, telling an unknown past by using natural elements.
The body of work began with large format nude self-portraits, exhibited in ‘Pt.2 – Com Des WIP Show’. The images were created through photo etching, which is a highly precise corrosion process used by chemical etching. The intaglio printmaking method was originated as Photogravure. The pairing images were printed with handmade ink from soot and linseed oil.
Following this was an exploration of Salt Printing, a photographic process involving wetting paper with a solution of table salt then brushing it with light-sensitive chemical, silver nitrate.
The reoccurring trope of the soot, salt and feathers throughout ‘Cleansing Rituals’ is integral to both the subject matter and the making of the images.