Date of Award
Master of Arts by Research
School of Arts and Humanities
Dr Nicola Kaye
Dr Lyndall Adams
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a culturally significant text that is widely known across many cultures. In this Victorian story, a little girl follows the talking White Rabbit down a rabbit hole to uncover a fantastical parallel world. Alice in Wonderland has remained in print for over 150 years, highlighting its continued relevance to generations of readers. This exegesis investigates the making of visual artwork that responds to this significant story, exploring the symbology and metaphorical nature of the text and seeing the story as a “reflexive project of the self” (Giddens, 1991, p. 5).
I began this research having already created two exhibitions based on Alice in Wonderland and with a desire to understand the text in more depth. As I became immersed in the subject, I discovered the importance of contextualising my exploration with an understanding of the author, Lewis Carroll, and the English Victorian society that he was a part of. Moreover, seeing the story as both a hero’s journey and a kind of dictionary of Jungian symbols, this exegesis explores the self-actualisation of Alice through the theories of Giddens, Campbell and Jung. Using these three theories, I apply my knowledge to a close reading of the text and uncover a wealth of visual imagery. Through making artworks responding to the story, I have investigated the interplay between the individual, society, and self-actualisation of the individual.
Alice in Wonderland has been re-imagined extensively. Therefore, it is relevant for me to research how Alice has been reinterpreted over time by popular culture, including the domination of this imagery by The Walt Disney Company (Disney). Additionally, I investigate some of the visual artists who, like myself, have found an interconnection between the visual world and this remarkable piece of literature. From the many visual artists who have re-imagined the story, I have chosen to focus my attention on artists who have perceived Alice in relation to their own lifeworld and have reinterpreted the story to correspond with their own concerns and experiences. These artists are Charles Blackman, Salvador Dali, Jenny Watson, Yayoi Kusama and Peter Blake.
I conducted this research having managed a sustained art practise over the last 30 years. I have explored my studio practice and recognised the inherent intelligence in the processes I use, and I have rediscovered my making as a collaboration with materials. I am a mid-career artist and have exhibited widely, including nine solo shows and numerous group exhibitions, and I have had artworks acquired by recognised collections. I have undertaken this research with the understanding that, at this time, I must engage more rigorously with my artwork and generate a critical and theoretical framework for my practice. The culmination of this practice-led research is my exhibition, Down the Rabbit Hole, at the Spectrum Project Space, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia, where I continue to respond to the story with printmaking and installation, creating a dynamic space for viewers to contemplate themselves in relation to the story.
Some images are not included in this version of the thesis.
James, S. (2021). Down the rabbit hole: An Exhibition – and – Alice in Wonderland engaging with the reflexive project of the self: An exegesis. https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/2473