Recently on display at Edinburgh Palette in St Margaret’s House Re: birth is Spilt Milk’s second iteration of its annual members’ show. Split Milk is a social enterprise based in Scotland which aims to promote and raise awareness of mothers working in the arts. Founded in 2018 by artist and mother Lauren McLaughlin, Split Milk aims to harbour and create a community for artists who are mothers. Its main aims are to promote gender equality, explore and raise awareness of the barriers experienced by artists as mothers, and to break down the stigmas often associated with motherhood and maternity.

Beginning as a small social enterprise, Spilt Milk has now grown to include over 80 members; many of whom live abroad, making it a global network for artists as mothers. Through this network, Spilt Milk creates a space, solidarity and opportunities for artists who are mothers, often hosting workshops, exhibitions and family based events.

The exhibition includes work from over half of Spilt Milk’s membership. Many of the works have come from abroad, including submissions from Australia and America; demonstrating how global yet interconnected Spilt Milk’s network has become. Being a members’ showcase the works are not curated, but instead a submission in response to this year’s theme; ‘Re: birth’.

The theme has resulted in a dynamic range of work and a variety of materials, including live performance, installation, photography, painting, soft sculptures, ceramics, collage, cotton, wool. Many of the materials employed are imbued with the domestic, suggesting moments of the artists working in the kitchen, or in amongst their children coming home from school. Collage, glitter, stitched and woven pieces all bring to mind vivid associations of domesticity and motherhood. The works within the show range from classical paintings, to small sculptures made from both crayon and dryer lint.

The everyday is very much present within the use of materials. Yet each artist has adapted and responded to the theme in different ways. Several artworks depict the moments of and after birth, with a soft umbilical cord present in the space and a painting depicting a birthing scene. Others explore the cycle of life and growth, with one artist utilising breastmilk within her cyanotypes, a blue hued photographic print process. Domestic labour is examined through an installation composed of a washing line and video projection. Other works explore children growing up, the maternal body, loss, adoption and particularly prevalent; the relationship between mother and child.

Although disparate in their materials, origins and immediate inspirations, by bringing such a diverse collection of artworks together, an assembled narrative emerges. The variety of works enables a full range of motherhood experiences to be explored, including shifts in the maternal body, experiences of birth and feelings of letting go as children grow up. The exhibition is in some parts melancholy, yet overall it paints a picture many visitors will be able to relate to, one which questions and interrogates the creative journey of motherhood.

Exhibition now finished