The only woman for the unconscious is the mother. As the first object of love, the mother is the first object lost and in a sense is always ever afterwards considered lost, even to the woman who subsequently becomes the mother herself.

Being the mother, surely cannot be the same as having her?

Within the mother/ daughter scenario, though substitutes abound they never suffice, and so this, and the woman's turning away from and hatred of the mother compounds the ambivalence between them, for she can never give her what she asks, or wants.

Going further: the child cannot escape the play of its mother's psychic life across its own, and the woman's identification and hostility to her mother is double-crossed in the meshes of the past, and that earlier daighter's desire and loss. In the course of the history of any family the Madonna of Infancy spins to face different ways to follow identifications. The clinging to the object, and the object and treasures that are clung to, can take on different guises within that repetition that is beyond pleasure. The lost object is always the occasion of desire and can only be represented in and as, absence and loss.

The mother of memory and loss takes many forms, the Madonna of Infancy, the femme fatale, the woman destroyed, the old woman, the dead woman; but they are all clung to with the same ambivalent intensity, recalled and searched meticulously."

(From an exhibition statement by the artist)


The Only Woman 1984/5MYates


The Only Woman 1985. Part 1: Rage- Section 1
Four sections f
ramed colour photographic print 30" x 20"


The work deals with the process of a daughter mourning a mother, and is structured around the repetition of a limited number of photographic images taken from the family album.These photographs are emblematic for the particular daughter who is the producer but they function iconically in the public domain. The manner of representation signals the stage of mourning when the bereaved clings to the lost object.

"The Only Woman 1984" is composed of three sections following the pattern of grieving traced by Freud in 'Mourning and Melancholia 1917': Rage, Pain, and Gaze.

The first section entitled "Rage", which involves four large images, presents in a dramatised form, the scenarios of loss and desire. The emotional response of the daughter to the Mother's death, is presented in a valorised form, as in serialised popular journalism. The characters are 'writ large' in a short-hand depiction, which presents them as larger than life, heroic, mythological.



The Only Woman1984 b

The Only Woman 1985. Part 1: Rage- Section 2
Four sections of f
ramed colour photographic prints 30" x 20"



The Only Woman 1984 c

The Only Woman 1985 Installation
Installation ICA Gallery, London 1985



the only woman at the ICA 1985

The Only Woman 1985 Installation Part 1: Rage
Installation ICA Gallery London 1985


The second section of the work entitled "Pain", has ten small panels in two parts. This is the pain of the loss of the object, but the intimate version of the grief, rather than the more public version in the first section, and the clinging to the objects, the refusal to separate.



the only woman at the ICA 1985b

The Only Woman 1985 Installation Part 1: Rage, and Part 2: Pain.
Installation ICA Gallery London 1985


the only woman at the ICA 1985 c

The Only Woman 1985 Detail Part 2: Pain
Ten panels of framed photographic prints 6"x 6"


The final section entitled "Gaze", represents the overcoming of the loss through distanciation and the process of severance. The texts produced as object offer a distancing from the scenario in the sense of a refusal of figuration, and the fragmentary presentation likewise, as though looking closely, but at the same time distanced; of being aware of looking and also of being looked at looking".

Marie Yates - Photography Feminism Fine Art in Ten8 Nov.1986


the only woman at the ICA 1985d


The Only Woman 1985 Detail Part 3: Gaze
Six panels of framed photographic prints 8"x8"

The Only Woman 1984-5