Posts Tagged ‘dead pan photography

27
Sep
16

Review: ‘Polixeni Papapetrou: Eden’ at Stills Gallery, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 3rd September – 1st October 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Drag queen wearing cut out dress' 1993

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
Drag queen wearing cut out dress
1993
Gelatin silver photograph
28.5 x 28.5cm
Courtesy the artist and Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

 

This end of (life) cycle is the last body of work that Polixeni Papapetrou will make. It is the completion of an imaginative, bold and strong body of work that stretches from the late 1980s through to this series, Eden. Papapetrou has remained true to her vision as an artist, one that documents performative identities within constructed landscapes.

In this series Papapetrou again cleverly stitches together space and time: flowers stitched together in wreaths; prints of period dresses; and further prints in the backdrop made from postwar backcloth. This “fabrication” of the picture plane has been a constant throughout the artistic life of Papapetrou. If we look at the formal construction of an early work, Drag queen wearing cut out dress (1993, below), we can still see the same concerns for flattened perspective in this new series. The wrapping up of space (fabric, dress, flowers, body) in an intricately overlapping, planar field of view with no vanishing point.

The work desires to celebrate the beauty of nature and honour its transience through the symbology of beauty and death associated with flowers. But for me, the use of facsimiles or simulacra – prints of flowers on dresses and repeated patterns of flowers on cloth – diminishes the relationship between the sitters and the flowers, thus undermining the conceptualisation of the series. The sitter is no longer embedded in the cycles of life and, on this level, the work fails to engage with how we are nature. The sitters exist in a masked reality (like the wreaths in front of the girls faces), which is a masquerade or act, a disguise which takes us away from our true being. As in much of Papapetrou’s work, camouflage – to hide or disguise the presence of (a person, animal, or object) – is to the fore, but this time these photographs fail to transcend their origins as studio set pieces.

Further, I have never been a great fan of “dead pan” photography and what I find curious here is the closed nature of the girls. They are stiff, focused inwards, looking off into nowhere. They don’t feel that they are in a state of reflection. For a series that seeks to show “the condition of becoming from childhood to adolescence to adulthood”, the photographs seem to lack the energy vital for such a journey. The exuberance of nature doesn’t seem to extend beyond the prints and flowers. As I said of her work in an earlier posting, “what springs to mind, with the use of masks to disguise youth positioned within the decorous landscape, is the notion of “passing”. Passing on (as in dying), passing through (as in travelling), in passing (as in an aside) and just “passing” (passing yourself off as someone or something else) to hide your true character or feelings.” Like a bower bird collecting colourful things for its nest, there are bits of all of that and more in this new series.

This is not my favourite body of Papapetrou’s work. No matter. What we should do is honour this talented and determined artist for creating memorable images over the years, for following her passion and her heart with courage and conviction. For the rest of my life I will always remember the spaces, the ambiguous vistas, the fantastical archetypes, the fables of her work. Images of drag queens and Dreamkeepers, Ghillies and goblins are etched in my memory. I will always remember them. You can’t ask much more from the work of an artist than that.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Poli and Stills Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“If I do live again I would like it to be as a flower – no soul but perfectly beautiful. Perhaps for my sins I shall be made a red geranium!”

.
Oscar Wilde

 

The loss of Eden is
personally experienced by
every one of us as we leave
the wonder and magic and
also the pain and terrors
of childhood.

.
Dennis Potter

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Blinded' from 'Eden', 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
Blinded
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Polixeni stitches space together in the same way that flowers are stitched together in a wreath – the one wand entwined within the space of the other – or vines or branches are woven on a trellis. The very word bower derives from a knot, a bow (as Shakespeare acknowledges with his ‘pleached bower’),[1] a tying together around an armature, where strands are interwoven, locked in, both strengthened and encumbered with their unity. They are ‘Together intertwin’d and trammel’d fresh’,[2] as the romantic poet Keats expressed it in his Endymion, a heady poem itself enmeshed with flowers and vine. In Polixeni’s photographs, however, the trammelled armature is the human herself…

In Eden, Polixeni weaves together much more than space but metaphor, metaphors of growth, nature, life-cycles, the sacred, the ideal; and even the all-over aesthetic field constitutes a kind of metaphor, the rhapsodic, the imaginary, the connected. The space that she has created is almost nothing but a metaphor, ‘her close and consecrated bower’;[13]…

Polixeni’s bower is fantastic in old and new ways: old, because it has forms of painting and sculpture within it where blooms and other plant-matter are brought together; and new because they gesture to a place so far beyond the studio…

This exclusivity along gender lines, like the image of the unicorn in the garden of a virgin, is also metaphoric: it stands for the preserve of the individual, the quintessentially safe place that is the interior, the inner realm of thought, the preserve of an unaffected psyche, an emotional haven, a bower of immanence. It has love in it, but deferred, otherworldly, imaginary and eternal.

Extract from Robert Nelson “Rhapsodies from the bower: Polixeni Papapetrou’s ‘Eden'” 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Delphi' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
Delphi
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

 

The name Delphoi comes from the same root as δελφύς delphys, “womb” and may indicate archaic veneration of Gaia… In Greek mythology, Gaia (/ˈɡ.ə/ or /ˈɡ.ə/ from Ancient Greek Γαῖα, a poetical form of Γῆ , “land” or “earth”) also spelled Gaea, is the personification of the Earth and one of the Greek primordial deities. Gaia is the ancestral mother of all life: the primal Mother Earthgoddess.

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Heart' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
Heart
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Flora' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
Flora
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

 

In Roman mythology, Flora (Latin: Flōra) was a Sabine-derived goddess of flowers and of the season of spring – a symbol for nature and flowers (especially the may-flower). While she was otherwise a relatively minor figure in Roman mythology, being one among several fertility goddesses, her association with the spring gave her particular importance at the coming of springtime, as did her role as goddess of youth. Her name is derived from the Latin word “flos” which means “flower”. In modern English, “Flora” also means the plants of a particular region or period.

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Psyche' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
Psyche
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Psyche (/ˈsk/, Greek: Ψυχή, “Soul” or “Breath of Life”). The basic meaning of the Greek word ψυχή (psūkhē) was “life” in the sense of “breath”, formed from the verb ψύχω (psukhō, “to blow”). Derived meanings included “spirit”, “soul”, “ghost”, and ultimately “self” in the sense of “conscious personality” or “psyche”… Portrayals of Psyche alone are often not confined to illustrating a scene from Apuleius, but may draw on the broader Platonic tradition in which Love was a force that shaped the self.

 

 

Colourful, abundant and compelling, Polixeni Papapetrou’s new series Eden arose out of a commission by the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP) in Melbourne to create works in response to the Melbourne General Cemetery. Papapetrou, photographed flowers obtained from the cemetery against a black backdrop to invoke ideas about mourning and remembrance. For Papapetrou, whose own plot is in the cemetery, and who, through illness, has faced her own mortality, it was a challenging and thought provoking assignment.

The commission led Papapetrou to delve into the language of flowers. The history of art is replete with images of flowers and they have a rich metaphorical resonance. In true Papapetrou spirit, what she has created in Eden, following on from the CCP work, is positive, philosophical and beautiful. Eden invites us to celebrate the beauty of nature and honour its transience. We, like flowers, are subject to seasons of growth, blossoming, and wilting. The young women in the photographs, in the Springtime of their lives, are surrounded by flowers; on backdrops, on dresses; held or worn, they adorn and overrun them. The lush colours and patterns are interrupted only by the faces and arms of the sitters, their expressions solemn and thoughtful, in contrast to the extravagance of the blooms.

Papapetrou has returned to photograph these subjects, including her daughter Olympia, at different stages of their lives. Eden uses the language of flowers to explore life itself, reflecting on the young womens’ metamorphosis from child to adolescent and adolescent to adult, and a oneness with the world, fertility and the cycles of life. They are enclosed in a floral embrace that symbolises their unity and acceptance of this miraculous thing we call life.

In addition to Eden, we will also exhibit a small selection of Papapetrou’s early Phantomwise works. These large-scale black and white photographs feature her young daughter Olympia between the ages of four and six wearing Victorian masks and performing various identities. As with Eden, these early works consider the potential for metamorphosis and the ambiguity between the ‘real’ and the ‘imaginary’, an ambiguity inherent in photography itself.

Press release from Stills Gallery

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Amaranthine' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
Amaranthine
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

The word is taken from ancient Greek and means everlasting or immortal (the same as the amaranth flower)

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Amaryllus' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
Amaryllus
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Eden' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
Eden
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85 cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Traditionally, the favoured derivation of the name “Eden” was from the Akkadian edinnu, derived from a Sumerian word meaning “plain” or “steppe”. Eden is now believed to be more closely related to an Aramaic root word meaning “fruitful, well-watered.” The Hebrew term is translated as “pleasure” in Sarah’s secret saying in Genesis 18:12

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Rhodora' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
Rhodora
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) "The Rhodora" from 'Poems' 1847

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson (American, 1803-1882)
“The Rhodora” from Poems
1847

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Spring' 2016

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
Spring
2016
From the series Eden
Pigment print
127.3 x 85cm
Courtesy of the artist and STILLS Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Stills Gallery

This gallery has now closed.

Stills Gallery website

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26
May
09

Exhibition: ‘Inheritance’ at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 1st May – 6th June 2009

Artists: Bindi Cole, Tamara Dean, Lee Grant, June Indrefjord, Bronek Kozka, Ka-Yin Kwok, Tracey Moffatt, Fiona Morris, Aaron Seeto, Martin Smith and Toni Wilkinson

Installation photographs of the exhibition can be found on the Lee Grant – Photography blog website

.
Many thankx to the ACP for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on some of the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

June Indrefjord. 'Piano' from the series Landaas 2005

 

June Indrefjord
Piano
2005
From the series Landaas

 

Aaron Seeto. 'Oblivion' 2006

 

Aaron Seeto
Oblivion
2006
From the series Oblivion
Daguerreotype

 

 

Aaron Seeto makes alternate historical positions and experiences visible through an exploration of archives, family photo albums and photographic records. In recent bodies of work Fortress and Oblivion, Seeto has utilised the daguerreotype, one of the earliest and most primitive photographic techniques, to highlight the malleability of narratives within archive records. Not only is the chemical process itself highly toxic and temperamental but the daguerreotype’s mirrored surface means the image appears as both positive and negative, depending on the angle of view. For Seeto, this mutability captures the essence of our experience of history and memory, reflecting how images degrade, how stories are formed and privileged, how knowledge and history are written. …

For his ongoing series Oblivion Seeto sourced details from images of the Cronulla riots – beachside riots around race and territory – of 2005 found on the internet. In reproducing these as daguerrotypes he seeks less to represent the incident than to look at how it was reported, understood and remembered. The instability of the virtual information found online is echoed in the photographic process.

Text from the Stills Gallery website [Online] Cited 14/02/2019

 

Tracey Moffatt. 'Useless 1974' 1994

 

Tracey Moffatt
Useless 1974
1994
From the series Scarred for Life

 

 

Useless, 1974 is a photo-lithograph by the Australian artist Tracey Moffatt. The work shows a girl stooping down to wash a car, with one hand wiping a headlight with a sponge and the other resting on the bonnet. She looks towards the camera rather than at the car, her face bearing a serious and potentially hurt or angry expression. The caption accompanying the photograph explains that ‘Her father’s nickname for her was “useless”‘. Despite this, it seems that in this picture she is being put to use, and perhaps the car she washes is her father’s. The caption, her expression and the direction of her gaze may suggest that the viewer occupies the position of the girl’s father looking down on and supervising his daughter while she carries out her chore. …

The work’s title is a reference to the cruel nickname given to the girl in the photograph, and the date in the title, 1974, suggests the year according to which the photograph has been styled by Moffatt, who employs actors and constructed scenes to create her photographs. Curator Filippo Maggia has compared Moffatt’s photographic method to that of a film director, stating that she ‘often does not take the photographs herself but directs a sort of bona fide movie set that she organises and controls after having pictured it in her mind again and again, meticulously decomposing and recomposing it’ (Maggia 2006, p.12). As the artist has stated, ‘I often use technicians when I make my pictures. I more or less direct them. I stand back and call the shots.’ (Quoted in Maggia 2006, p.12.)

Moffatt’s photographic series often deal with themes such as race, gender and the politics of identity. Drawing on memories from the artist’s childhood, the Scarred for Life series mimics photo spreads from the American magazine Life, with their explanatory captions and focus on the family environment. The captions’ terse descriptions hint at the traumatic stories behind the images. Moffatt has commented: ‘a person can make a passing comment to you when you are young and this can change you forever. You can be “scarred for life” but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The photographs can be read as both tragic and comic – there is a thin line between both.’ (Quoted in display caption, Tracey Moffatt, Birth Certificate 1994, Tate P78101, accessed 28 August 2015.) Furthermore, Maggia has argued that the Scarred for Life series ‘gives us life as it is, the harshness and aridity of human relations, adolescence with its fears of not being accepted’ (Maggia 2006, p.13).

Louise Hughes
August 2015

Filippo Maggia, Tracey Moffatt: Between Dreams and Reality, exhibition catalogue, Spazio Oberdan, Milan 2006, p. 13, reproduced p. 117.

Extract from Louise Hughes. “Useless, 1974,” on the Tate website [Online] Cited 14/02/2019

 

Lee Grant. 'The Day Meg Wore a Dress '2007

 

Lee Grant
The Day Meg Wore a Dress from the series Brothers and Sisters
2007

 

 

“You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.”

 

From the tight nuclear unit to the multi-generational extended family, from refuges for the homeless to middle class suburbia, Inheritance examines the way our families shape the person we become; for better or for worse.

Taking Tracey Moffatt’s acclaimed series Scarred for Life as a starting point, the exhibition includes the work of eleven Australian artists who explore the modern family through a range of photographic disciplines, including documentary, portraiture and video. Sometimes serious and sometimes satirical, Inheritance is a family album that celebrates the skeletons and the psychodramas alongside the newborns and the nuptials.

Text from the Australian Centre for Photography website [Online] Cited 20/05/2009

 

Bindi Cole Wathaurung Mob 2008

 

Bindi Cole
Wathaurung Mob
2008
From the series Not really Aboriginal
Pigment print on rag paper
1035 x 1235cm

 

 

Our Past Is Our Strength – Culture and Identity

I’ve always been told that l was Aboriginal. I never questioned it because of the colour of my skin or where I lived. My Nan, one of the Stolen Generation, was staunchly proud and strong. She made me feel the same way. My traditional land takes in Ballarat, Geelong and Werribee and extends west past Cressy to Derrinallum. I’m from Victoria and I’ve always known this. All the descendants of traditional Victorian Aboriginal people are now of mixed heritage. I’m not black. I’m not from a remote community. Does that mean I’m not really Aboriginal? Or do Aboriginal people come in all shapes, sizes and colours and live in all areas of Australia, remote and urban?

Bindi Cole Wathaurung text from the Culture Victoria website [Online] Cited 14/02/2019

 

“Wathaurung Mob is a group portrait depicting members of Cole’s family sitting in their lounge room, their faces blackened with minstrel paint, and wearing red headbands traditionally worn by indigenous elders. The controversial practice of “blackfacing” refers to the populist minstrel shows of the 19th and 20th centuries in which a white actor put on blackface, then performed a racist caricature.

As we stand before the work, Alessi says he finds it confronting and uncomfortable. “Wathaurung Mob is quite powerful because what stands out are the eyes of each sitter; they look directly at the viewer, so you can’t help but feel challenged by that,” he says.

“There is also something quite uncomfortable about the work because, in some ways, you are being implicated in Andrew Bolt’s view, as white Australians having to own up to the broader history of the relationship between white and indigenous Australia.

“And more broadly it is about coming to grips with what is still a major issue in Australia around reconciliation and the way that we treat indigenous people. In one single frame this photograph captures 200 years of history, and I think it is an area that people like Bindi Cole are really courageous to navigate through because they have been open to criticism by people like Andrew Bolt, which is completely unfounded.””

Extract from Bronwyn Watson. “Facing up to the stereotypes,” on The Australian website November 16, 2013 [Online] Cited 14/02/2019

 

Fiona Morris. 'Sean and Jade, Wesley Mission' 2006

 

Fiona Morris
Sean and Jade, Wesley Mission
2006

 

Tamara Dean. 'Alex and Maeve' 2006

 

Tamara Dean
Alex and Maeve
2006

 

 

Australian Centre for Photography
ACP Project Space Gallery,
21 Foley St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010

Gallery Hours:
Tue-Fri 10.00am – 5.00pm
Sat 11.00am – 4.00pm

Australian Centre for Photography website

Lee Grant website

Tracey Moffatt on the Rosyln Oxley9 Gallery website

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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, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor 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.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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