Practice Based Research – Project Two
Convict Named in the Margin
This project concerns a young Manx woman named Ann Thompson, who was convicted and sentenced to 7 years Transportation to Australia in 1833, for stealing 37 yards of lace edging, worth 25 shillings (£130.00 today). Tragically, the ship Amphitrite that Ann was transported on was shipwrecked off the coast of Boulogne-sur-mer, France, and all the female convicts on board, including Ann, were drowned. It was a needless tragedy caused by the captain’s refusal to allow the prisoners to be taken to shore, locking them below decks instead. The incident caused international outrage (nearly bringing the Transportation system to an end), made worse by the fact that the bodies of the prisoners were robbed and desecrated after they washed ashore. Although lengthy stories of the tragedy appeared in Manx newspapers at the time, the Isle of Man government did not let it be known that a Manx woman was among the dead. They did, however, write a number of letters to the London headquarters of the Transportation system, quibbling about the amount they had paid for her transportation. In these and other court documents, Ann is referred to as the “convict named in the margin”.
The heart of this project is a 86cm x 200cm acrylic and oil painting. I began the painting towards the end 2020, and have been working on it since. It is intricate and labour-intensive, and I currently work on it for a minimum of 3 hours a day. I would prefer not to publish images of it until it is finished, which I estimate will be in 2 to 3 months.
Although I discuss the painting and the overall project in my blog, as there is no material practice to show yet, I thought it would be more helpful to detail below the other components of the project, and my intentions regarding them, rather than provide links to the relevant blog posts.
I intend to make a film that will serve as a companion piece for the painting. My idea is to write a spoken-word piece that tells Ann’s story in first-person narrative form. I will then have a young Manx woman perform the piece, which I will film. Water will be a central feature of the film. Although I have not yet written the spoken-word piece, I did have a one to one tutorial with Alicia Mondedero-Chaves to discuss how I might approach it. Once I have finished the painting, I will begin work on the film. The image below is an example of the aesthetic I would like for the film.
I also intend to make a textile artwork to be shown with the painting. I am still in the process of formulating an idea, and am particularly interested in the list of clothing that was required to be sent with each convict.
I would also like to incorporate the list of the 108 female convicts (and 12 children) who were on the Amphitrite, all of whom died when it was shipwrecked. I think the contrast between the beautiful penmanship of the handwriting and the terrible fate that awaited the women on the list is both poignant and haunting.
I am still at the research stage of textile piece. Once I have finished the painting, I will begin experimenting with different ideas and textiles etc. I recently had a one to one workshop with Sukie Sagoo-Reddy, and together we discussed the piece and how I might approach it.
I have looked at the work of a number of textile artists for inspiration, as below:
Research is a major component of this project. I originally came across Ann’s story in a book about the Isle of Man’s involvement in the Transportation System.
I have since scoured the relevant archives and research databases to gather as much information as possible about the events in question, so I can tell Ann’s story accurately. It is an on-going, labour-intensive process, and I have a research assistant who helps me.