The sitter is my mum, Jillian Hall, a teacher and proud feminist. This painting discusses Jillian’s relationship with her gender. She is trapped by gender, represented here as an upturned glass. Like the glass ceiling, gender, is something unseen but has imposing limitations.
Jillian is a whisky drinking, power tool wielding, intellectual, poststructural feminist. To paint her portrait I wanted to capture these aspects of her but also her calm controlled approach to life and combatting sexism. She does not openly rage but stands firm, composed and immovable.
In the painting Jillian is trapped but not helpless. In her hand is the small, ornamental hammer gifted to her in jest at her love of power tools. The crack in the whisky tumbler appears as if she has just struck the side of the glass and then resumed her composure with a slight, sly smile. The hammer sits resting on her skirt patterned with cats and shelves of books. Cats have long been a symbol for female sexuality and books for intellectuality, perfect for this feisty English teacher.
There is stillness in this painting, reflecting Jillian’s calm demeanour but also mimicking the stale stillness of culture and archaic traditions that allow women to be considered lesser than and more meek and mild than their male counterparts. As shown by the crack in the wall and Jillian's sly smile, to interpret her calm as passivity would be a mistake.
The pastel lavender background was chosen to encourage the sense of stillness. Lavender is considered a “feminine” colour, however, it is the colour of the Suffragette movement and therefore a colour that, like Jillian, should not be underestimated. Lavender has a history of defiance and pride.
I am proud of my mum’s desire to wear my own bright red lipstick for this portrait. I am proud that my influence on my mother has been to wear lipstick as war paint, a statement of pride and assertion.