Beverley Carruthers is the Course Leader for BA (Hons) Photography at London College of Communication.
She is a member of LCC's Photography and the Contemporary Imaginary research hub – and a co founder of Writing Photographs project, hosting exhibitions and conferences and producing publications.
Beverley is a photographer and educator who makes work and conducts research around ideas of the primal.
Through her work Beverley investigates the state of transformation, with the focus oscillating from witchcraft to the witch's familiar and mythological creatures.
Often working with dancers or performers Beverley expands upon the initial photographs through darkroom techniques, with the final outcomes at times combining still and moving image.
Wiccian by Diane Purkiss Most women artists’ attempts to portray witches are depressing, one-dimensional and sentimental evocations of Strong Women as Role Models. These works by Beverley Carruthers are very different.
Beverley Carruthers has not only understood witchcraft; she has translated her understanding into a series of images and fantasies that show women the dark side of the way we see ourselves and the way we are seen. Because one of the strengths of her work is its understanding of witchcraft as fragmentary or incomplete, a commentator must be true to Carruthers’ vision by writing in fragments. These works are strong because they do not define, and the pressure of exegesis could destroy their effectiveness if carelessly academic. This, then, is a response in kind.
A doll; why are dolls always sinister? This one is; she has a hard face, black hair, a jutting chin. In fact, it is the doll who looks like a witch. The script says that no good came from this action.
A love-charm is made of leaves. Below them hangs a withered leaf in a bag.
Love is dependent on freshness. ‘Love likes not the falling fruit/ From the withered tree.’
The witch’s body, too, is problematically old, dried, impervious to pain and sympathy.
The bloated abdomen.
The pregnant belly is replicated here. There is a stain across it, a stain which could be blood, could be the juice of some fruit. There is a clump of hair, stuffing that has leaked from the cushion. It is incomplete, missing the head, missing the breasts. Yet it is not functional.
The pregnant belly is not as secure as it seems; its contents may leak away. The witch’s body is a problem because it has no boundaries, and that is how it can breach the boundaries of the bodies of others.
A naturally perforated stone keeps witches away from the door. This is standard transgression magic. The witch can only get in through a hole, a crack; and therefore, paradoxically, a stone with a hole in can make a house whole. But to us there is no wholeness; this mindset cannot fully be recovered, and in that sense Carruthers’ work is purposely dumb about what can no longer be said.
Rose wood is a faceless doll, pierced by pins. Witchcraft reduces the body of the other to nothingness and nobody.
The forefoot of a mole. Witchcraft dismembers, breaks apart. It is a fantasy of becoming a fragment, becoming lost in fragments.
Good magic reflects the witch’s power to fragment back at her. The sheep’s heart is also just a piece of flesh, holed by nails. A bent rusty nail speaks about the strong force of the hand that drove it in, the violence of the gesture. Its rust is not just a sign of age. It also speaks of uncleanness, disease.
By contrast, there is a much prettier image; a porcelain bowl, emblazoned with a star, and with other runes, bathed in blue light. To be a witch, wisewoman, is all very well when it involves porcelain bowls, but when it involves blue light, things are different. Nicer. Cleaner. This is one of the only images that does not provoke visceral clutch. It can’t, therefore, be trusted, for witchcraft is all about revulsion.
Holly twigs that are withered are also little transgressions. They look fiercer, their spikes thrown into relief. A witch, too, is dry and hard, not green and soft.
Get rid of magic. Some people have the uncanny knack of getting pregnant by the wrong man. The telephone call; social intercourse; being connected. The blurring rays of light, and the nails that are like an aspect of the light.
Like a collection of family photographs, like an exhibition in an old-fashioned local museum. Both apposite: witchcraft is mostly about families, and it’s also mostly about the small, the local, the popular; the eyes of the great are usually elsewhere. Small and unofficial.
Mending and making-do.
The rusting traces of past feeling.