“Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework…” wrote French feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir. “The clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.” Adelaide-based artist Zoe Freney mentions this quote when talking about Work from Home at Newmarch Gallery.
Freney explains how the show’s title is a play on domestic and professional work occurring in the home, and how this labour became either encouraged or mandated during pandemic restrictions. While Freney understands that working from home benefited some, she ultimately focuses on how it impacted women. “There are lots of studies that the Covid-19 working from home regulations meant a return to earlier models of gender roles in the home.”
After recently completing a doctorate in visual art on feminist representations of motherhood, Work from Home extends this research. However, Freney says she’s now “experimenting with materials that feel a bit freer and more intuitive”. Spanning drawing, painting and textiles, the show “explores ideas of the body and the mother’s body in the home and the domestic sphere”.
Work from Home includes two contrasting textile sculptures of double fronted houses—one made from tulle, the other linen. Inspired by a wooden doll’s house—which Freney referred to when developing the show—these works poignantly speak to the ambivalence of home and what the concept evokes.
Of the tulle sculpture, Freney explains how the almost weightless material plays with the concept of invisible labour: work that’s unpaid, socially under-recognised, and primarily undertaken by women and mothers. “I recognise there are all forms of motherhood and I like for the works to open out to, and to be read as, representing care beyond stereotypical notions of motherhood.”
Work from Home
24 February—25 March
This article was originally published in the January/February 2023 print edition of Art Guide Australia.