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ABC of Me is an homage to death and life. In this exhibition, Workman reflects on the invisible labour carried out by women; most prominently, of mothers. Through her work in ceramics (a material often associated with the arts and crafts movement and the domestic realm), Workman reflects on how a woman serves… no matter what is thrown at her, she will provide. Just as Workman was starting life as a mother, her own mother died. She was only 54. With three young children, Workman found herself drowning in grief as well as overwhelmed by the thankless, wretched boredom of early motherhood. As Workman states; ‘Women are so often ignored, expectations are put upon them to get on with ‘it’. This is my response to how overwhelming grief and motherhood are. Neither should be underestimated. Intimate relationships are impossible, vulnerability is exposed. Liberty ceases to exist, trapped at home or emotionally. Physically inflated and deflated, swollen and then hollow. Financial freedom ceases with or without intention and economic power is lost while you try to find the point in existence. Socially, no one understands, and the ones that do are seldom people you want to spend time with. The world seems on a new axis as you begin to tread an unknown journey into a new life.’ Workman is a maker in the truest sense of the word. A self-taught artist, everything in this exhibition has been made by Workman, her mum and her children. The glaze used on the tiled table top and tiled benches has been made with her mum’s ashes and the tiles and shapes are made by her and her children. She captures the changing bodies of women and girls, immortalising times that are so fleeting yet feel never-ending in the permanence of clay. Crockery on the table has been made from moulds of Workman and her children; a wealth of time suspended in breasts and tummies and children’s bottoms. Around the room is a coving made from a mould of her vulva, humorously representing a woman’s journey through life. Inspired by ancient egg and dart decorative moulding (the egg represents a symbol of life and fertility and the dart represents a symbol of strength and protection), Workman subverts traditional methods of symbolism with her knowing and uncompromising sense of humour. At the crux of the exhibition are Workman’s ABC tiles. Reflecting the simplistic ABC tiles used as a learning tool for children; Workman utilises the simplistic design to explore the nuances of women’s stories. There is an unyielding pathos in the work, each tile a reflection on Workman’s own experience, each tile a warning to the girls that she is raising. Mercedes Workman is an artist living and working in Margate, Kent.

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