Repository logo

Drawing from life: An autobiographical study in the creative work of Sheryl Thornton-Dibb le Tourneur with reference to selected female artists.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This practice-based research (PBR) project facilitates the use of creative studio practice as research together with theoretical research that culminate in an integrated exhibition and written dissertation for examination for the degree: Master of Art in Fine Art – Research (MAFA-R). This research adopts an heuristic approach to allow for flexibility, un pre-determined outcomes and tacit knowledge. Heuristics is suitable for autobiographical study as the subjective experience of the researcher is not only acknowledged but becomes the focus of the research. The phases and processes of heuristics become guides to the research process. The heuristic phases are also used in discussion of the processes and artworks of creative studio practice from a retrospective ‘bird’s eye’ view. The process becomes an immersive one in which the researcher embodies the research question and follows intuition, personal interest and emotion to engage with the materials of creative practice, to incubate inner knowledge and wait for emergent illumination. The theory of autobiography as influenced by feminism provides a theoretical framework that respects the influence of existential-phenomenological, psychoanalytic and spiritual frameworks and recognises the possibility of philosophical engagement. Autobiographical subjectivity, composed of experience, identity, memory, embodiment and agency, is implicitly and explicitly expressed in creative expression. Materiality and metaphor as embodied are also discussed as relating to autobiographical and creative expression in which varied themes emerge. The written and artistic work of Käthe Kollwitz and Wilma Cruise produced during midlife during which they experienced the loss of a loved one and psychological and/or spiritual existential crises is discussed in relation to the work and experience of personal loss and midlife of the author, Sheryl Thornton-Dibb le Tourneur. In this context the metaphors of birthing of self and creativity and nurturing creative seed within are discussed as is the equation of mother and artist. The use of figurative work and self-portraiture and the materials and processes of drawing and clay for artworks in 2D and 3D are considered in terms of their materiality and personal and implicit autobiographical expression in the quest for articulation of a personal and universal voice. Visual journaling of the process and curation of the artworks are recognised as significant in their contribution to the production and presentation of the creative studio practice and are unable to be reduced to or subsumed by the explication or exhibition.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.