17
Sep
09

Review: ‘First Jobs’ by Tracey Moffatt at Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 7th August – 27th September 2009

 

Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Fruit Market' 1975

 

Tracey Moffat (Australian, b. 1960)
First Jobs, Fruit Market
1975
Archival pigments on rice paper with gel medium
71 × 91.5 cm

 

 

There are some wonderful bodies of photographic work on show around Melbourne at the moment and this is one of them.

Featuring twelve archival pigment on rice paper with gel medium prints, Tracey Moffatt’s series First Jobs (2008) is a knockout. Images of the artist are inserted into found photographs which are then “hand coloured” (like old postcards) in Photoshop. Moffatt’s series conceptualises the early jobs that she had to do to survive – investigating the banality of the jobs, the value of friendships that were formed coupled with an implicit understanding of the dictum ‘work is life’.

Moffatt’s images hark back to the White Australia policy of the 1950s and the home and living books of that period. With their hyper-real colours, strange coloured skies, green washing machines and purple tarmac Moffatt amps up the voltage of these images and subverts their idealisation. Here is the re-presentation of the physical and spatial isolation of the figure (store clerk/housekeeper) or the sublimation of the usually female figure into the amorphous mass of the whole (meat packing/pineapple cannery) in quintessentially Australian environments. Here also is comment on the nature of a patriarchal society – the smiling receptionist sitting under the portrait of her male boss, awaiting his command.

The spaces of these photographs seem to (literally) consume the artist and her remembrance of these jobs. Despite her smiling face in each of the images we implicitly understand the banality of the jobs for we have done them ourselves. We know these spaces intimately: the spaces inhabit us as much as we inhabit them. As the viewer we experience the being of these images, their reverberation, where the two kinds of space – the space of intimacy and the world space – blend.1

The only sour note of the series comes not in the work itself but in the accompanying artist statement (see below). In this churlish expose of the ‘woe is me, I’m a full time artist and isn’t it so difficult to be a full time artist’ variety, Moffatt complains about the miserable voices in her head and about having to get up off the couch because she is the only person able to make the work and the money. Oh to be so lucky to actually make a living as a full time artist and have the time and space to be creative 7 days a week! Would I have her situation anytime soon? Ha, um, yes.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Centre for Contemporary Photography for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting.

 

1. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969, p. 203.

 

Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Housekeeper' 1975

 

Tracey Moffat (Australian, b. 1960)
First Jobs, Housekeeper
1975
Archival pigments on rice paper with gel medium
71 × 91.5 cm

 

Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Store Clerk' 1975

 

Tracey Moffat (Australian, b. 1960)
First Jobs, Store Clerk
1975
Archival pigments on rice paper with gel medium
71 × 91.5 cm

 

Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Corner Store' 1977

 

Tracey Moffat (Australian, b. 1960)
First Jobs, Corner Store
1977
Archival pigments on rice paper with gel medium
71 × 91.5 cm

 

tracey Moffat. First Jobs, Receptionist 1977

 

Tracey Moffat (Australian, b. 1960)
First Jobs, Receptionist
1977
Archival pigments on rice paper with gel medium
71 × 91.5 cm

 

Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Meat Packing' 1978

 

Tracey Moffat (Australian, b. 1960)
First Jobs, Meat Packing
1978
Archival pigments on rice paper with gel medium
71 × 91.5 cm

 

 

“Over the years my friends and I joke about our dreadful past jobs. Jobs we worked as teenagers and young students. Awful jobs that we would rather forget about such as cleaning out the local cinema after a screening of The Exorcist in 1974.

When I was a kid I always had jobs and I always made my own money whether it was receiving a dollar for pulling up the weeds in the yard or baby sitting for neighbours or working at the local green grocers. The thing about making a bit of your own cash was that you could buy your own clothes and not have to wear the clothes that your mother picked out.

In 1978 at seventeen I worked in factories peeling pineapples. I also packed meat and shelled prawns. Such back breaking labour was exhausting but the money was good.  After one year I saved enough money to travel to Europe and backpacked around for nine months. Then in 1980 I went to art school in Brisbane but continued part-time work as a waitress to pay for art materials.

After art school I was desperate for money to pay the rent and I worked many jobs. Some were: scrubbing floors in a women’s refuge, washing dishes in a canteen and parking cars in a car park beneath a restaurant called Dirty Dicks (I had no driver’s licence, but the patrons were always drunk and didn’t care.)

I am resentful and appalled at the work I had to do to survive. I hold a grudge towards rich kids who never had to slave like I did. Secretly though I’m proud of myself. When I think of those early years I realise that I was learning to be tough and work whether I liked it or not. I put my head down and was forced to be productive. I was learning how to get on with other people and learning to handle a boss. These days I do nothing but make art and have exhibitions. Being an artist feels like being on a permanent but jittery holiday in comparison to those early working days. Now I sleep in until 9.30am and press the ‘ignore’ button on my phone if I don’t feel like talking to anyone. But, as Bette Davis put it, it is ‘The Lonely Life’. You have come up with the ideas and make them happen. No-one else is going to do it for you.

But I remember the good things about the factory floor. Walking into work everyday and saying hi to people you knew, there was a camaraderie. The work was mindless but it didn’t mean that your mind couldn’t go places. Then there was knock-off time. The bell would ring and you would be out the door with a wad of cash in your hand and not a care in the world.

In being a full-time artist there never is any knock-off time. There’s always a nagging, miserable voice of ideas in your head and you MUST get up off the sofa and produce work. The bell never rings and you never know where your next buck is coming from. Your mind is constantly wound up. You’re never really physically tired not like when you had a real honest job. But would I go back to working in a factory just to get good a night’s sleep? Ha, um, no.”

Tracey Moffatt, 
New York 2008

Press release from Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery [Online] Cited 23/04/2019

 

Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Pineapple Cannery' 1978

 

Tracey Moffat (Australian, b. 1960)
First Jobs, Pineapple Cannery
1978
Archival pigments on rice paper with gel medium
71 × 91.5 cm

 

Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Parking Cars' 1981

 

Tracey Moffat (Australian, b. 1960)
First Jobs, Parking Cars
1981
Archival pigments on rice paper with gel medium
71 × 91.5 cm

 

Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Canteen' 1984

 

Tracey Moffat (Australian, b. 1960)
First Jobs, Canteen
1984
Archival pigments on rice paper with gel medium
71 × 91.5 cm

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Phone: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours:
Wednesday – Friday, 11am – 5pm
Saturday – Sunday, 12pm – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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4 Responses to “Review: ‘First Jobs’ by Tracey Moffatt at Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy, Melbourne”


  1. 1 jacqui
    August 21, 2011 at 9:15 am

    really innovative, interesting idea for photographic art. you pulled it off too, looks amazing, and leaves you remembering your first jobs..

  2. August 16, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Generally I don’t learn article on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very pressured me to check out and do it! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thank you, very great post.

  3. September 19, 2009 at 3:15 am

    thanks for posting these images – hope to see show this weekend…


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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