Marion is a practising artist, and her work is represented in major public, corporate and university art collections in South Africa. She is also an art historian/theorist and writer. Born in England, Marion grew up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and gained her BA Honours, MA and PhD in South Africa. She held full-time Senior Lectureships at the University of South Africa and the University of Stellenbosch, and visiting lectureships at the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Cape Town for 20 years before returning to the United Kingdom in 2020. Marion had part-time teaching roles at the Norwich School of Art and Design; Birkbeck College, University of London; the University of East Anglia; and Loughborough before her appointment to a permanent lectureship at Loughborough in 2010 in the School of the Arts.
Marion's doctoral thesis, ‘Post-Impressionist Vision: a Study of the Work of Roger Fry and Virginia Woolf’, researched early British modernist literature, art theory and Post-Impressionist painting. This generated her ongoing commitment to interdisciplinary theoretical research and to practice-led research evidenced in her art practice-writing about drawing, painting and printmaking, and memory embodied in cultural artefacts. Her written research engages with the art object as the nucleus of the artist’s personal and social visual communication and its contextualisation in geopolitical, economic, cultural and social structures. She is particularly interested in image-text relationships and explore this in her artwork and written research. She has published extensively as theorist and art critic on art in Zimbabwe and South Africa, and written books ranging from Shona stone sculpture to the South African floral landscape to women’s creative practice. Current research focuses on Southern African art, colonialism and postcolonialism, the diasporic experience, women’s art, feminist theory, drawing and printmaking.
Marion's publications include Zimbabwean Stone Sculpture (1981; updated 1986); The Life and Work of Thomas Baines 1820-1875 (1995, co-authored with Jane Carruthers); Irma Stern: A Feast for the Eye (1995); Women and Art in South Africa (1996); South African Botanical Art: Peeling back the Petals (contributing editor, 2001), From Union to Liberation: South African Women Artists 1910-1994 (2005; contributing co-editor with Brenda Schmahmann), Art in Eastern Africa (2008, contributing editor); Home/Land: Women, Citizenship, Photographies (2016, edited Marion Arnold and Marsha Meskimmon).
Recently completed projects include, ‘Cutting Anti-Apartheid Images: Bongiwe Dhlomo’s Activist Linocut Prints’ in Impact 6 Proceedings (Multidisciplinary Printmaking Conference, 2011); ‘The Imprint of South Africa: Narratives by some Black Women Printmakers at the Caversham Press’ in Impact 7: Intersections and Counterpoints (Monash Univ. Publishing, 2013); ‘Here, There and In-Between: South African Women and the Diasporic Condition’ in Women, the Arts and Globalization: Eccentric Experience (ed. Marsha Meskimmon and Dorothy Rowe, 2013); ‘Mind the Gap: Translation in a Fractured African Society’, Third Text v.27, issue 3, May 2013.
Marion is currently writing a book provisionally titled, Drawn to Print: Essays on Drawing, Printed Drawings and Narratives Drawn from South Africa. The visual component explores The Caversham Press in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and investigates the print archive as a microcosm of art practice in pre- and post-apartheid South Africa.
Marion's teaching has been within art and design programmes on Drawing: Discourses and Debates, and 19th and 20th century modernist art (first year modules). She contributes lectures to second year modules and she is the Module Leader of the large Art and Design Dissertation module, where she lectures, runs writing workshops and supervises dissertations.
Marions supports the CDT, ‘Feminism, Sexual Politics, and Visual Culture’ (now housed in the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, directed by Professor Hilary Robinson). She serves on the Management Committee and contributes to PhD seminars and workshops.
Her current and completed PhD/Mphil students include:
- Charlene Clempson: Who Am I? An exploration of objects and memory
- Joe Graham: Streams of consciousness: Drawing as a method for exploring the subjective structure of the phenomenological “fringe
- Louisa Parker: Small Stories: contemporary graphic narratives and gendered histories
- Kerry Drumm: The Art of Persuasion: The British Animated Public information Film from 1939-2009
- Man Ki Park: The Strange Case of the Animated Jekyll's Hyde: A documentary Study of Korean Youth Culture and Identity
- Fabia Lin: Doubling the Duality: a theoretical and practical investigation into materiality and embodiment of meaning in the integration of live action and animation.
Marion is a member of the Association for Art History and a former Chair of the Independents group. She has served as external examiner for PhD theses at South African universities and as an international reader for research rating for South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).