Sophia Xeros-Constantinides




Monash University, Australia


Sophia Xeros-Constantinides is an artist and clinician working with perinatal mother-infant distress.  She is currently undertaking research for a PhD in Fine Art at Monash University, exploring the visualisation of women's reproductive experiences and the maternal-infant relationship. 
Xeros-Constantinides works in a variety of media, including drawing, printmaking, digital photography and collage.  Whilst acknowledging and celebrating the wonders of procreation, she is aware of the enormous risk and cost falling to women in their reproductive lives, not least in terms of mental health and well-being.  She uses collage as metaphor for the schisms and disruptions which confront women in their reproductive quest. 
In the catalogue to her recent exhibition 'Bedlam: The bitter-sweet embrace of motherhood' (2010), curator Dr. Wendy Garden commented:  'In the work of Xeros-Constantinides the body is not so much an inscriptive surface upon which meaning is mapped out but rather a container of hidden interiorities and cavernous depths.  ...she unhinges the maternal body to lay bare the anguish and dread that lies at the heart of many women's experiences of maternity and early motherhood.  ...she explores the invisible mechanisms of alienation and the ambivalence women have with their changing bodies as a result of reproduction.By bringing to visibility deeply interred fears Xeros-Constantinides' monstrous montages reclaim the maternal body, intervening in the knowledge-struggles over early mothering and validating women's private experiences.' 
Xeros-Constantinides' work has been exhibited nationally in the Fremantle Print Prize (2010), in the 2010 Swan Hill Print & Drawing Prize exhibition, and in the 2010 Beleura National Works on Paper exhibition at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery.  Her work has been acquired by the Dax Centre in Melbourne, a National collection of art pertaining to mental health and psychological trauma.


Fertile Bodies: Fearsome space, collage and the maternal print archive


In this paper, I explore perinatal experiences in relation to fear, from clinical and theoretical perspectives, and visually, by examining the maternal print archive.  I pose questions about perinatal ideals and realities, and present imagery to support the idea of a 'fearsome' perinatal space.  The reader is invited to re-assess the implications of motherhood for women, based on documentation of lived experiences found in writing and drawings, and on insights of analyst-therapists who have worked in therapy with pregnant women and new mothers.  I examine a broad range of imagery from the maternal print archive (including drawings, digital prints and collages) for visual metaphors of fear, analysed in terms of the threat to physical and mental integrity.  The intention is to lift the veil from idealized depictions of motherhood as they are often presented in popular culture, to uncover alternative realities, and to give voice to women's lived (maternal) experiences of vulnerability and ambivalence.  I appraise Adamowicz's description of collage as an 'encounter between disparate realities' and find resonances with the clinical description of the pregnant state ' both house juxtapositions and disruptions which undermine the status quo. Finally, I examine the place of collage as a medium for the representation of perinatal fear in relation to my own collage works and drawings, and in relation to the maternal print archive.


Friday 30 September


11:00am - 12.30pm





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