Knots are one of those ambivalent symbols, with meanings that fluctuate between continents and cultures and all occur at once. Knots mean knowledge passed on wordlessly, Incas used them instead of written language, but the Virgin Mary, undoer of knots, ‘set free through faith what the virgin Eve had bound through unbelief,’ or in other words, handed the fruit right back. Knots tie loved ones together but tangle them up. Knots set sexuality free, but the Boy Scouts love them platonically.
Queen of Knots is a body of work created while the artist Grace Morgan Pardo lived in Montreal, Canada. Created during a period of personal struggle with the dual oppression and isolation of new motherhood, the works were inspired by an inherited photo album and are strung together by threads of family narratives, Spanish, Italian and Latin American Renaissance and Baroque paintings and Roman Catholic imagery. Simultaneously, Morgan Pardo reaches beyond this history to what came before; the afro/indigenous figures and symbols that Catholic images stand in for, the native Mapuche who originally owned the land her family grew up on, and the snake who existed before the Virgin Mary.
Using a glazing technique overlaid with high frequency detail, the oil paintings take familial subjects and imagine stories around them, transferring them to hyper pastoral settings and mixing them with symbols of feminine power, magic and fecundity alongside those of suffering. A favourite aunt is reimagined as a teenage Catherine of Sienna, serene with string despite being tormented by implements of toil. The same aunt poses in her confirmation dress, while her schizophrenia manifests as unbearably tactile details over every surface. Morgan Pardo’s dreams overflow with nature, fornication and fertility, and the artist herself appears with her daughter as the Virgin Mary, protector of sailors, only in this image, the snake of knowledge is comfortably entwined with mother’s jewellery, two items passed on through generations of women. Ulysses’ wife Penelope wove and unravelled to trick her suitors and Grace Morgan Pardo weaves together things that shouldn’t be found in the same place to find solutions in difficult situations.
The artist’s daughter Margherita (meaning pearl in Latin) is fascinated with tying up. The extended Morgan Pardo family calls her ‘The Queen of Knots’.
- Sarah Kathryn Cleaver