Posts Tagged ‘Petrina Hicks


Melbourne’s magnificent nine 2013

January 2014


Darron Davies. 'Encased' 2012


Darron Davies
Archival Pigment Print on Photo Rag
80 x 80cm / edition of 6



Here’s my pick of the nine best local exhibitions which featured on the Art Blart blog in 2013 (plus a favourite of the year from Hobart). Enjoy!



1/ Review: Terraria by Darron Davies at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

This is the first “magical” exhibition of photography that I have seen in Melbourne this year. Comprising just seven moderately large Archival Pigment Print on Photo Rag images mounted in white frames, this exhibition swept me off my feet. The photographs are beautiful, subtle, nuanced evocations to the fragility and enduring nature of life…

A sense of day / dreaming is possible when looking at these images. Interior / exterior, size / scale, ego / self are not fixed but fluid, like the condensation that runs down the inside of these environments (much like blood circulates our body). This allows the viewer’s mind to roam at will, to ponder the mysteries of our short, improbable, joyous life. The poetic titles add to this introspective reflection. I came away from viewing these magical, self sustaining vessels with an incredibly happy glow, more aware of my own body and its relationship to the world than before I had entered Darron Davies enveloping, terrarium world.


Darron Davies. 'The Red Shard' 2012


Darron Davies
The Red Shard 
Archival Pigment Print on Photo Rag
80 x 80cm / edition of 6



2/ Review: Confounding: Contemporary Photography at NGV International, Melbourne

Presently, contemporary photography is able to reveal intangible, constructed vistas that live outside the realm of the scientific. A photograph becomes a perspective on the world, an orientation to the world based on human agency. An image-maker takes resources for meaning (a visual language, how the image is made and what it is about), undertakes a design process (the process of image-making), and in so doing re-images the world in a way that it has never quite been seen before.

These ideas are what a fascinating exhibition titled Confounding: Contemporary Photography, at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne investigates. In the confounding of contemporary photography we are no longer witnessing a lived reality but a break down of binaries such as sacred and profane, public and private, natural and artificial, real and dreamed environments as artists present their subjective visions of imagined, created worlds. Each image presents the viewer with a conundrum that investigates the relationship between photographs and the “real” world they supposedly record. How do these photographs make you feel about this constructed, confounding world? These fields of existence?


Thomas Demand. 'Public housing' 2003


Thomas Demand (German b. 1964)
Public housing
type C photograph
100.1 x 157.0cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the Bowness Family Fund for Contemporary Photography, 2010
© Thomas Demand/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney


Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965 'The ancestors' 2004


Eliza Hutchison (Australian, b. 1965)
The ancestors
Light-jet print
95.4 x 72.9cm (image), 105.4 x 82.9cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2005
© Eliza Hutchison, courtesy Murray White Room


3/ Review: Louise Bourgeois: Late Works at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne


Louise Bourgeois: Late Works installation view Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne Photograph: John Gollings 2012


Louise Bourgeois: Late Works installation view
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Photograph: John Gollings 2012


Louise Bourgeois 'Untitled' 2002


Louise Bourgeois (French-American, 1911-2010)
Tapestry and aluminium
43.2 x 30.5 x 30.5cm
Courtesy Cheim & Read and Hauser & Wirth
Photo: Christopher Burke
© Louise Bourgeois Trust



This is a tough, stimulating exhibition of late works by Louise Bourgeois at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne. All the main themes of the artist’s work explored over many years are represented in these late works: memory, emotion, anxiety, family, relationships, childhood, pain, desire and eroticism are all present as are female subjectivity and sexuality, expressed through the body…

Bourgeois’ work gives me an overall feeling of immersion in a world view, one that transcends the pain and speaks truth to power. Bourgeois confronted the emotion, memory or barrier to communication that generated her mood and the work. She observed, “My art is an exorcism. My sculpture allows me to re-experience fear, to give it a physicality, so that I am able to hack away at it.” By weaving, stitching and sewing Bourgeois threaded the past through the present and enacted, through artistic performance, a process of repair and reconstruction, giving meaning and shape to frustration and suffering. I have not been so lucky. My mother refuses to discuss the past, will not even come close to the subject for the pain is so great for her. I am left with a heaviness of heart, dealing with the demons of the past that constantly lurk in the memory of childhood, that insistently impinge on the man I am today. Louise Bourgeois’ sculptures brought it all flooding back as the work of only a great artist can, forcing me to become an ethical witness to her past, my past. A must see exhibition this summer in Melbourne.


4/ Exhibition: Petrina Hicks: Selected Photographs, 2013 at Helen Gory Galerie, Prahran, Melbourne

A stunning, eloquent and conceptually complex exhibition buy Petrina Hicks at Helen Gory Galerie…

I am just going to add that the photograph Venus (2013, below) is one of the most beautiful photographs that I have seen “in the flesh” (so to speak) for a long while. Hicks control over the ‘presence’ of the image, her control over the presence within the image is immaculate. To observe how she modulates the colour shift from blush of pink within the conch shell, to colour of skin, to colour of background is an absolute joy to behold. The pastel colours of skin and background only serve to illuminate the richness of the pink within the shell as a form of immaculate conception (an openness of the mind and of the body). I don’t really care who is looking at this photograph (not another sexualised male gaze!) the form is just beauty itself. I totally fell in love with this work.

Forget the neo-feminist readings, one string of text came to mind: The high fidelity of a fetishistic fecundity.


Petrina Hicks. 'Venus' 2013


Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972)
Pigment print, Edition of 8
100 x 100cm


Petrina Hicks. 'Enigma' 2013


Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972)
Pigment print, Edition of 8
100 x 100cm



5/ Exhibition: Density by Andrew Follows at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond

I include this in my list of magnificent photographic exhibitions for the year not because I curated it, but because of the conceptualisation, the unique quality of the images and the tenacity of a visually impaired artist to produce such memorable work.

A wonderful exhibition by vision impaired photographer Andrew Follows at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond. It has been a real pleasure to mentor Andrew over the past year and to see the fruits of our labour is incredibly satisfying. The images are strong, elemental, atmospheric, immersive. Due to the nature of Andrew’s tunnel vision there are hardly any traditional vanishing points within the images, instead the ‘plane of existence’ envelops you and draws you in.


Density n.

The degree of optical opacity of a medium or material, as of a photographic negative;

Thickness of consistency;

Complexity of structure or content.


Andrew Follows. 'Number 31, Eltham' 2013


Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019)
Number 31, Eltham
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5cm


Andrew Follows. 'Green, Montsalvat' 2013


Andrew Follows (Australian, d. 2019
Green, Montsalvat
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm


Carol Jerrems. 'Mark and Flappers' 1975


Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Mark and Flappers
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems


Carol Jerrems. 'Carol Jerrems, self-portrait with Esben Storm' c. 1975


Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Carol Jerrems, self-portrait with Esben Storm
c. 1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Joy Jerrems 1981
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems



6/ Review: Carol Jerrems: photographic artist at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

This is a fascinating National Gallery of Australia exhibition about the work of Australian photographer Carol Jerrems at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill – in part both memorable, intimate, informative, beautiful, uplifting and disappointing…

The pity is that she died so young for what this exhibition brought home to me was that here was an artist still defining, refining her subject matter. She never had to time to develop a mature style, a mature narrative as an artist (1975-1976 seems to be the high point as far as this exhibition goes). This is the great regret about the work of Carol Jerrems. Yes, there is some mediocre work in this exhibition, stuff that really doesn’t work at all (such as the brothel photographs), experimental work, individual and collective images that really don’t impinge on your consciousness. But there are also the miraculous photographs (and for a young photographer she had a lot of those), the ones that stay with you forever. The right up there, knock you out of the ball park photographs and those you cannot simply take away from the world. They live on in the world forever.

Does Jerrems deserve to be promoted as a legend, a ‘premier’ of Australian photography as some people are doing? Probably not on the evidence of this exhibition but my god, those top dozen or so images are something truly special to behold. Their ‘presence’ alone – their physicality in the world, their impact on you as you stand before them – guarantees that Jerrems will forever remain in the very top echelons of Australian photographers of all time not as a legend, but as a women of incredible strength, intelligence, passion, determination and vision.


7/ Exhibition: Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion at NGV International, Melbourne

What a gorgeous exhibition. It’s about time Melbourne had a bit of style put back into the National Gallery of Victoria, and this exhibition hits it out of the park. Not only are the photographs absolutely fabulous but the frocks are absolutely frocking as well. Well done to the NGV for teaming the photographs with the fashion and for a great install (makes a change to see 2D and 3D done so well together). Elegant, sophisticated and oozing quality, this is a sure fire winner….


Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International


Installation photograph of the exhibition Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion at NGV International


Edward Steichen. 'Marlene Dietrich' 1934


Edward Steichen (American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23)
Marlene Dietrich
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications



8/ Exhibition: Reinventing the Wheel: the Readymade Century at the Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Melbourne

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) is generating an enviable reputation for holding vibrant, intellectually stimulating group exhibitions on specific ideas, concepts and topics. This exhibition is no exception. It is one of the best exhibitions I have seen in Melbourne this year. Accompanied by a strong catalogue with three excellent essays by Thierry de Duve, Dr Rex Butler and Patrice Sharkey, this is a must see exhibition for any Melbourne art aficionado before it closes.

“This transition is a flash, a boundary where this becomes that, not then, not that – falling in love, jumping of a bridge. Alive : dead; presence : absence; purpose : play; mastery : exhaustion; logos : silence; worldly : transcendent. Not this, not that. It is an impossible presence, present – a moment of unalienated production that we know exists but we cannot define it, place it. How can we know love? We can speak of it in a before and after sense but it is always a past moment that we recognise.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan. Made Ready: A Philosophy of Moments. December 2013


Jeff Koons. 'Balloon dog (Red)' 1995 designed


Jeff Koons (American, b. 1955)
Balloon dog (Red)
1995 designed
Porcelain, ed. 1113/2300
11.3 x 26.3 cm diameter
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne




Andrew Liversidge (Australian, b. 1979)
10,000 $1 coins (AUD)
30.0 x 30.0 x 30.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and The Commercial Gallery, Sydney



9/ Review: Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne


Claudia Terstappen. 'Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)' 2002


Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)
from the series Our ancestors 1990-
Gelatin silver print
29.0 x 29.0cm
Courtesy  of the artist


Claudia Terstappen. 'Zion Park (USA)' 1996


Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Zion Park (USA)
from the series Sacred land of the Navajo Indians 1990-
Gelatin silver print
37.0 x 37.0cm
Courtesy  of the artist



Without doubt this is the best pure photography exhibition I have seen this year in Melbourne. The exhibition is stimulating and enervating, the image making of the highest order in its aesthetic beauty and visual complexity. The artist explores intangible spaces which define our physical and spiritual relationship with the un/known world…

In Terstappen’s work there is no fixed image and no single purpose, a single meaning, or one singular existence that the images propose. They transcend claims about the world arising from, for example, natural or scientific attitudes or theories of the ontological nature of the world. As the artist visualises, records the feeling of the facts, such complex and balanced images let the mind of the viewer wander in the landscape. In their fecundity the viewer is enveloped in that situation of not knowing. There is the feeling of the landscape, a sensitivity to being “lost” in the landscape, in the shadow of ‘Other’, enhanced through the modality of the printing. Dreamworld vs analytical / descriptive, there is the enigma of the landscape and its spiritual places. Yes, the sublime, but more an invocation, a plea to the gods for understanding. This phenomenological prayer allows the artist to envelop herself and the viewer in the profundity – the great depth, intensity and emotion – of the landscape. To be ‘present’ in the the untrammelled places of the world as (divine) experience…

I say to you that this is the most sophisticated reading of the landscape that I have seen in a long time – not just in Australia but from around the world. This is such a joy of an exhibition to see that you leave feeling engaged and uplifted. Being in the gallery on your own is a privilege that is hard to describe: to see (and feel!) landscape photography of the highest order and by an Australian artist as well.


10/ Exhibition: Joan Ross: Touching Other People’s Shopping at Bett Gallery, Hobart

The claiming of things
The touching of things
The digging of land
The tagging of place
The taking over of the world

Tag and capture.
Tag and capture.
Shop, dig, spray, destroy.

An ironic critique of the pastoral, neo/colonial world, tagged and captured in the 21st century.

Excellent work. The construction, sensibility and humour of the videos is outstanding. I also responded to the two works Tag and capture and Shopping for butterfly (both 2013, below).


Joan Ross. 'Tag and capture' 2013


Joan Ross (Australian, b. 1961)
Tag and capture
hand painted pigment print on cotton rag paper
50 x 47cm (image size)
edition of 3


Joan Ross. 'Shopping for butterfly' 2013


Joan Ross (Australian, b. 1961)
Shopping for butterfly
hand painted pigment print on cotton rag paper
51.5 x 50cm (image size)
edition of 3




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Exhibition: ‘Petrina Hicks: Selected Photographs, 2013’ at Helen Gory Galerie, Prahran, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 12t June – 6th July 2013


Petrina Hicks. 'Venus' 2013


Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972)
Pigment print, Edition of 8
100 x 100cm



“They’re thoughtful pictures that arouse curiosity rather than desire.”

Robert Nelson



A stunning, eloquent and conceptually complex exhibition buy Petrina Hicks at Helen Gory Galerie. It seems churlish to repeat writing about the themes and mythologies exhibited in the work after they have been so excellently delineated in the catalogue essay by Dan Rule. Everything that you need to know about the work is in that concise piece of writing.

I am just going to add that the photograph Venus (2013, below) is one of the most beautiful photographs that I have seen “in the flesh” (so to speak) for a long while. Hicks control over the ‘presence’ of the image, her control over the presence within the image is immaculate. To observe how she modulates the colour shift from blush of pink within the conch shell, to colour of skin, to colour of background is an absolute joy to behold. The pastel colours of skin and background only serve to illuminate the richness of the pink within the shell as a form of immaculate conception (an openness of the mind and of the body). I don’t really care who is looking at this photograph (not another sexualised male gaze!) the form is just beauty itself. I totally fell in love with this work.

Forget the neo-feminist readings, one string of text came to mind: The high fidelity of a fetishistic fecundity.


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



Petrina Hicks. 'The Birth of Venus' 2013


Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972)
The Birth of Venus
Pigment print, Edition of 8
100 x 133cm


Petrina Hicks. 'Birdfingers' 2013


Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972)
Pigment print, Edition of 8
100 x 100cm



Beauty and Artifice

Catalogue Essay by Dan Rule

“There’s a particular acuteness to the various strands, cues and counterpoints informing Petrina Hicks’ by now extensive body of work. Her highly keyed brand of hyperrealism is at once incisive in tenor and rich in historical, referential and allegorical depth.

An obvious vantage has long been that of the advertised image. Hicks’ subjects, palette and props are enveloped in a slickened and stunningly sickening sheen that is all too familiar. Augmented, buffed and polished, her works are traces of the highly aestheticised and fetishistic images that proliferate throughout the popular visual language. The skin, hair, clothing, surface and light assume an all but unsettling patina. The index is set askew amid the insidious markers of style and desire.

But Hicks’ highly constructed images aren’t mere transgressions of what has become a gleaming vernacular form. Every encroachment into the frame, every flat, luridly coloured backdrop has an implication and a consequence. In previous works, she has broached creation mythologies; she has recast religious subplots and in gloss and saccharine. Her 2011 series Hippy and the Snake – which comprised a painstakingly realised 25-minute video work alongside a collection of large-scale photographs – might have been read as a flirtation with Eve’s dalliance with the serpent in a re-imagined Garden of Eden.

Sex, birth and death also lurk amid Hicks’ latest series of images, presented as the central strand of her Selected Photographs exhibition. Set against a muted, neutral backdrop, these large-format photographs broach both the portrait and the still life, teasing out a taxonomy of sensuous allegories and sinister omens. In the somewhat aptly titled Bird Fingers, a young girl intently studies her fingertips, each of which is adorned with a tiny bird’s skull, as if a finger puppet or a jewel. That the girl’s expression is neither one of fear nor admiration – but rather, a measured intrigue – gives this work a fascinating twist. Her reaction to death is unlearned; she studies and surveys and pieces together the evidence. Another work, The Hand That Feeds, sees another young protagonist calmly offering her palm to a crow – an avian so often cast with the pall of death.

Venus, meanwhile, sees a woman hold a glossy, pink conch shell – fleshy and open – before her face as if a beacon. The accompanying Birth of Venus is a still life comprising a conflation of symbologies and references. An overfilled champagne glass perches beside the aforementioned shell, a string of pearls draped across and within its span. It delves deep into both art and socio-feminist history. While the pearl has long invoked purity and femininity throughout mythology, the conch engenders that of fertility. But these works also echo with a more contemporary resonance – one perhaps found in second-wave feminism. While the champagne might be read as an allusion to upward mobility and financial independence, the string pearls almost resemble birth control pills (perhaps an allegory for the emancipation of the female reproductive organs?). In New Age, a jagged crystal takes the place of pubic hair, resting hard and sharp against the softness and fragility of the flesh. This symbol for healing only works to amplify the vulnerability of the body. That Hicks’ engages with such themes in 2013 points to the folly of complacency. The notion that we can sleep in the wake of  feminism is bogus, null and void.

Indeed, Hicks’ retrieval and reinterpretation of mythologies and social precedents suggests that history repeats. While her images of children suggest minds unsullied by the scourge of learned prejudices and social mores, Venus and her like describe the continuum of the sexualised male gaze. That Hicks’ co-opts a visual language so often used to hock products and desires serves as the ultimate repost. Human complexity can continue to exist, even amid the cycle and the cynicism of the commercial artifice.


Installation view of 'Petrina Hicks: Selected Photographs, 2013' at Helen Gory Galerie

Installation view of 'Petrina Hicks: Selected Photographs, 2013' at Helen Gory Galerie

Installation view of 'Petrina Hicks: Selected Photographs, 2013' at Helen Gory Galerie


Installation views of Petrina Hicks: Selected Photographs, 2013 at Helen Gory Galerie


Petrina Hicks. 'Enigma' 2013


Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972)
Pigment print, Edition of 8
100 x 100cm


Petrina Hicks. 'The Hand That Feeds' 2013


Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972)
The Hand That Feeds
Pigment print, Edition of 8
100 x 220cm


Petrina Hicks. 'The Beauty of History' 2010


Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972)
The Beauty of History
Pigment print, Edition of 8
85 x 85cm


Petrina Hicks. 'New Age' 2013


Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972)
New Age
Pigment print, Edition of 8
100 x 220cm



Helen Gory Galerie

This gallery has now closed.


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Exhibition: ‘Hijacked III: Contemporary Photography from Australia and the UK’ at Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA)

Exhibition dates:  18th February – 8th April 2012



Hijacked III Interview with writer Anthony Luvera



The photographs in this posting highlight the conceptual diversity in contemporary art practice and emphasise the talent of the practitioners working today. Just an observation: how serious are the portraits – it’s as if no’body’ is allowed to laugh or smile anymore. Perhaps this is a reflection of the times in which we live, full of malaise, anxiety and little wonder. Fear of being replaced, fear of discrimination, fear of growing up, fear of dying. Or dressed up in a women’s dress and pink hat, having the “courage” or ignorance (the opposite of fear?) to look like a stunned mullet with a blank expression on the face (deadpan photography that I really can’t stand). Or, perhaps, simple effacement: defiance as body becomes mannequin, body hidden behind a mask or completely cloaked from view. These grand photographs have the intensity, perhaps not a lightness of being.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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



Trish Morrissey. 'Hayley Coles, June 17th, 2006' 2006


Trish Morrissey (Irish, b. 1967)
Hayley Coles, June 17th, 2006
Courtesy of the artist and Elaine Levy Project, commissioned by Impressions Gallery

Review of Trish Morrissey on Art Blart



Front deals with the notion of borders, boundaries and the edge; using the family group and the beach setting as metaphors. For this work, the artist travelled to beaches in the UK and around Melbourne. There, she approached families and groups of friends who had made temporary encampments, or marked out territories and asked if she could be part of their family temporarily. Morrissey took over the role or position of a woman within that group – usually the mother figure. The artist asked to take the place of the mother figure, and to borrow her clothes. The mother figure then took over the artist’s role and photographed her family using a 4 x 5 camera (which Morrissey had already carefully set up) under the artist’s instruction. While Morrissey, a stranger on the beach, nestled in with the mother figure’s loved ones.

These highly performative photographs are shaped by chance encounters with strangers, and by what happens when physical and psychological boundaries are crossed. Ideas around the mythological creature the ‘shape shifter’ and the cuckoo are evoked. Each piece within the series is titled by the name of the woman who the artist replaced within the group.

Text from the PICA website


Bindi Cole. 'Ajay' 2009


Bindi Cole (Australian, b. 1975)
From the series Sistagirls
Courtesy of Nellie Castan Gallery

Review of Sistagirls on Art Blart



The term ‘Sistagirl’ is used to describe a transgender person in Tiwi Island culture. Traditionally, the term was ‘Yimpininni’. The very existence of the word provides some indication of the inclusive attitudes historically extended towards Aboriginal sexual minorities. Colonisation not only wiped out many Indigenous people, it also had an impact on Aboriginal culture and understanding of sexual and gender expression.

As many traditions were lost, this term became a thing of the past. Yimpininni were once held in high regard as the nurturers within the family unit and tribe much like the Faafafine from Samoa. As the usage of the term vanished, tribes’ attitudes toward queer Indigenous people began to resemble that of the western world and the religious right. Even today many Sistagirls are excluded from their own tribes and suffer at the hands of others.

Text from the PICA website


Maciej Dakowicz. 'Pink Hat, 23:42. Cardiff' 2006


Maciej Dakowicz (Polish, b. 1976)
Pink Hat, 23:42. Cardiff
Courtesy of the artist and Third Floor Gallery



St Mary Street is one of the main streets in central Cardiff, the capital city of Wales; a city as any other in the UK. Unassuming during the day, on weekend nights it becomes the main scene of the city night life, fuelled by alcohol and emotions. Some of Cardiff’s most popular clubs and pubs are located there or in its vicinity. The very popular Chippy Lane, with its numerous chip and kebab shops, is just a stone’s throw away. Sooner or later most party-goers end up in that area, whether looking for another drink, some food or in search of another dance floor.

Everything takes place in this public arena – from drinking, fighting, kissing to crying and sleeping. Supermen chat up Playboy Bunnies, somebody lies on the pavement taking a nap, the hungry ones finish their portions of chips and the policemen stop another argument before it turns into a fight. Nobody seems to worry about tomorrow, what matters is here and now, punctuated by another week at work, until the next weekend rolls around again.

Text from the PICA website


Laura Pannack. 'Shay' 2010


Laura Pannack (British, b. 1985)
Courtesy of the artist
Represented by Lisa Pritchard Agency



What’s so special about this picture are the details. The tattoo – not just what it says but the way it mimics the Nike Swoosh on her shirt – and the cigarette, that although it is not in focus, one imagines has a large line of ash on it, as if time has stopped. This is echoed in the expression on her face, deep intensity and focused on something ahead although the car is obviously stationary. From a distance one could be mistaken that this is an American photograph from the 70s but on closer inspection – the piercing, the Nike Swoosh, the car door handles – one realises that this is contemporary and British. And yet of course that stare is timeless.

Harry Hardie on the Foto8 website [Online] Cited 22/03/2012 no longer available online


Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin. 'Culture3/Sheet72/Frame3' 2011


Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin
Courtesy of the artists & Paradise Row, London



HIJACKED III interview with PICA curator Leigh Robb



… Artists are notorious for their ability to hijack; meaning to stop and hold up, to seize control by use of force in order to divert or appropriate, a deliberate attempt to action a change of direction.

Hijacked III: Contemporary Photography from Australia the UK draws on the success and unique energy of Hijacked I (Australia and USA) and Hijacked II (Australia and Germany), to once again bring together two geographically distant but historically connected communities through a range of diverse photographic practices.

This exhibition will be simultaneously presented across two sites: PICA in Perth, Western Australia and QUAD Gallery in Derby, United Kingdom, and has been timed to coincide with the launch of the luscious, full colour and 420 page Hijacked III compendium, published by Big City Press. Utilising portraiture, digital collage, archival images, documentary snap shots, internet grabs and refined photographic tableaux, the 24 artists and over 120 works in this exhibition explore themes as diverse as curious weekend leisure pursuits, gender politics and displaced Indigenous culture.

Artists: Tony Albert, Warwick Baker, Broomberg & Chanarin, Natasha Caruana, Bindi Cole, Maciej Dakowicz, Christopher Day, Melinda Gibson, Toni Greaves, Petrina Hicks, Alin Huma, Seba Kurtis, David Manley, Tracey Moffatt, Trish Morrissey, Laura Pannack, Sarah Pickering, Zhao Renhui, Simon Roberts, Helen Sear, Justin Spiers, Luke Stephenson, Christian Thompson, Tereza Zelenkova, Michael Ziebarth.

Press release from PICA website


Sarah Pickering. 'Land mine' 2005


Sarah Pickering (British, b. 1972)
Land mine
Courtesy of the artist and Meessen De Clercq, Brussels



The Explosion pictures document the literal theatre of war – the detailed level of artifice used to prepare men and women for combat on the front lines. They also reveal the minutiae of packaging war as entertainment. The beauty of the pictures lies in their perverse seductiveness, and this attraction underscores the distance most of us have from real combat.

Pickering’s Explosion images, by distilling an aspect of the war that is a fiction, question the reliability of seemingly objective historical accounts, such as news reports and photographs that influence how war is communicated and remembered. By extension they question how we come to know what we know about it. We learn about war from a variety of sources, from history books, first-hand accounts, news media, and movies, all of which can get confused and merged in our minds as memory.

The dual purpose of the explosives – training and re-enacting – forms a fitting parallel to how we cope with trauma, a process of both anticipation and reconciliation.”

Sarah Pickering website


Simon Roberts. 'We English No. 56' 2007


Simon Roberts (British, b. 1974)
We English No. 56

More Simon Roberts We English on Art Blart



Simon Roberts travelled across England in a motorhome between 2007 and 2008 for this portfolio of large-format tableaux photographs of the English at leisure. We English builds on his first major body of work, Motherland (2005), with the same themes of identity, memory and belonging resonating throughout. Photographing ordinary people engaged in diverse pastimes, Roberts aims to show a populace with a profound attachment to its local environment and homeland. He explores the notion that nationhood – that what it means to be English – is to be found on the surface of contemporary life, encapsulated by banal pastimes and everyday leisure activities. The resulting images are an intentionally lyrical rendering of a pastoral England, where Roberts finds beauty in the mundane and in the exploration of the relationship between people and place, and of our connections to the landscapes around us.

Text from the Simon Roberts website


Tony Albert. 'No Place' 2009


Tony Albert (Australian, b. 1981)
No Place
Courtesy of the artist



Tony Albert is a Girramay rainforest man from the Cardwell area… The No Place series references The Wizard of Oz ‘there’s no place like home’. For No Place Tony returns to his tropical paradise home with a group of Lucho Libre wrestling masks from Mexico. His family adorn these masks and again become warriors protecting their paradise. These seemingly playful masks share much with Aboriginal and particularly rainforest culture. Body and shield designs from this area represent animal gods or spirit beings. The use of these masks brings a prescient new layer of armour for a new generation of warrior.

The colour scheme of solid blocks of red, black and yellow also speak to traditional rainforest aesthetics. There are strong elements of the sublime and the fantastical within these works. Viewing Aboriginal people in iconic north Queensland locations masked in Mexican wrestling paraphernalia carries more than a hint of the surreal and absurd.

Anon. “Tony Albert and No Place,” on the Big Art website, 2010 [Online] Cited 22/03/2012 no longer available online


Christian Thompson. 'Untitled #7 from the King Billy Series' 2010


Christian Thompson (Australian / Bidjara, b. 1978)
Untitled #7 from the King Billy series
Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi



King Billy, is an ode to his great great grandfather, King Billy of Bonnie Doon Lorne. The initial inspiration was a photograph of King Billy, standing alone wearing his ‘name plate’. Despite its colonial overtones, for Thompson, this image of the senior tribesman exudes wisdom and kindness and reminds him of his father. In much of Thompson’s work his processes are intuitive, he delves into a rich dream world and draws out fabulous images. He manifests his own mythological world. In this series his figures are clad in fabrics patterned with Indigenous motifs, mainly cheap hoodies in lurid colours; a modern / ancient skin for a magic youth culture. He has made a triptych, three views of a pink hooded figure spewing cascading pearl stands from the face; opulent, decadent, excessive and sensual.

Another image shows a crowned figure swathed in fabrics bearing the markings of various clans, perhaps indicating the domain of this regal form. In the hands a (poisoned?) chalice – the sawn off plastic bottle a warning about petrol sniffing? His self-portrait as psychedelic godhead/Carnaby Street dandy / flower child is spectacular and arresting. He is wearing a tailored suit, patterned with more Indigenous motifs and he cradles a bouquet. His skin is green and his eyes are purple flowers. What can this otherworldly creature tell us?

Thompson seems to emphasise a theme of disparity in this work; the ‘hoodie’ with the cascading pearls, the crown with the plastic bottle, the opulence with the desperate. These works are both beautiful and confronting.

Text from the PICA website



HIJACKED III interview with Christian Thompson


Petrina Hicks. 'Emily the Strange' 2011


Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972)
Emily the Strange
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery



Petrina Hicks’ Beautiful Creatures appeals to our senses. Immediately alluring, the large-scale, hyper-real photographs, are all rendered so clearly and with such control they are reminiscent of advertisements. But with a series of little ruptures, within images and between them, Hicks disrupts our usually beguiled response to such artistry. For her, photography’s capability to both create and corrupt the process of seduction and consumption is of endless interest.

Hicks loads her images with history and associations but denies us a clear message. Along with the ambiguity, there is a visceral quality in these new works; her depiction of flesh, hair and veins stops the viewer short of being lulled into consumption. Hicks engages a playful yet confronting approach to confound our expectations. A cat, naked without fur, in the image Sphynx, contrasts a beautiful blonde with a face full of it in Comfort. In Emily the Strange the hairless creature reappears with a young girl whose piercing green eyes, skin-pink dress, and latent defiance, make her eerily akin to her pet. Alluded to, in the title of the exhibition, this duality is present in much of the work. Her subjects are not simply beautiful or simply creatures.

Text from the PICA website



HIJACKED III interview with photographer Petrina Hicks


Tereza Zelenkova. 'Cadaver' 2011


Tereza Zelenkova (Czech, b. 1985)
Courtesy of the artist


Luke Stephenson. 'Diamond Sparrow #1' 2009


Luke Stephenson (British, b. 1983)
Diamond Sparrow #1
Courtesy of the artist



Stephenson finds birds and the world surrounding them wonderfully fascinating. The birds he has photographed all belong to avid bird breeders who on the whole have been keeping birds their whole lives. It’s a hobby people generally don’t come into contact with, unless you are active within it. The artist does not keep birds but finds them beautiful in all their variations and colours, so has set out capture these birds in a way that would show them at their best.

There are many criteria to breeding a prize-winning bird, from shape and form to its pattern, and this is something Stephenson has tried to convey whilst also attempting to show some of their personalities. He set out to photograph every breed of bird within the ‘hobby’ of keeping birds but soon realised there were thousands of variations, so decided to keep this as an ongoing project; realising instalments every couple of years which people can collect and, hopefully one day, the dictionary will be complete.

Luke Stephenson website



Perth Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA)
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Phone: + 61 (0) 8 9228 6300

Opening hours:
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Exhibition: ‘What’s in a face? aspects of portrait photography’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 24th September 2011 – 5th February 2012


Many thankx to the Art Gallery of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Glaister studio (Australia 1855-1870) 'Untitled (portrait of a man and three girls)' 1855-1870


Glaister studio (Australian, 1855-1870)
Untitled (portrait of a man and three girls)
Ambrotype, colour dyes
6.5 x 9cm sight; 9.3 x 11.9cm case
Purchased 1989



This charming ambrotype was thought to have been produced by one of Australia’s most important early photographers, Thomas Glaister, owning to the presence of the Glaister stamp on the case. However, superb varnish was one of Glaister’s hallmarks and this ambrotype is not varnished. In addition, the hand-colouring is not considered to be to Glaister’s standard. As such, it is possible that the ambrotype was inserted into this case at a later date, not least because there is no form of blackening behind the image. This was standard practice to prevent the viewer seeing through to the inside of the case. The Eichmeyer ‘book’ case, patented in 1855 by Henry A Eichmeyer of Philadelphia, were made of fine leather and beautifully put together. Glaister certainly used these but the ambrotype is probably not his specifically and could have been made by one of his sons in the 1860s when they worked as travelling photographers. Regardless of who took the image, it is a charming colonial portrait which in size is typical of the period – it can easily be held in the hand.

Ambrotypes were developed in the 1850s. They were faster and cheaper to make than daguerreotypes, yet were still unique objects.

1. 1989, ‘Masterpieces of Australian photography’, Josef Lebovic Gallery, Sydney p. 25

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007


Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911 - 2003) 'Only to taste the warmth, the light, the wind' c. 1939


Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911-2003)
Only to taste the warmth, the light, the wind
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Image/sheet: 33.2 x 30.0cm
Purchased with funds provided by John Armati 2006
Art Gallery of NSW Collection



Only to taste the warmth, the light, the wind appears to have been the only print Cotton made of this image. It was found in the late 1990s and has been shown only once, in an exhibition at the AGNSW in 2000 where it was also used on the catalogue cover. It was unusual for Cotton to print so large, yet it is entirely fitting that this monumental head and shoulder shot of a beautiful young woman should be presented in this way. The subject was a model on a fashion shoot at which Cotton was probably assisting. Cotton often took her own photographs while on such shoots and used them for her private portfolio. The photograph transcends portraiture, fashion and time to become a remarkable image of harmony with the elements.

Cotton took the title for this photograph from an 1895 poem by English poet Laurence Binyon, ‘O summer sun’:

O summer sun, O moving trees!
O cheerful human noise, O busy glittering street!
What hour shall Fate in all the future find,
Or what delights, ever to equal these:
Only to taste the warmth, the light, the wind,
Only to be alive, and feel that life is sweet?1

A photographer whose work straddles pictorialism, modernism and documentary, Cotton maintained an independent vision throughout her working life, based on the close observation of nature. Her understanding of the medium of photography was not to do with capture, but rather ‘drawing with light’.

1. 1915, ‘Poems of today’, English Association, London p. 96.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007


Destiny Deacon (Kuku / Erub, Australia b. 1957) 'Portrait: Janet Burchill & Jennifer McCamley, Artists' 1998


Destiny Deacon (Australian / Kuku/Erub, b. 1957)
Portrait: Janet Burchill & Jennifer McCamley, Artists
Colour bubble jet print from Polaroid photograph
57.9 x 71cm
Purchased 1998
© Destiny Deacon. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney



Deacon is widely recognised for her staged photographs which employ various props, including souvenirs and kitsch, in satirical tableaus that critique notions of Aboriginality. Initially, in 1991, she employed dolls and since then they have become a signature motif. This use of non-living models informed her practice when she began to photograph people. As Deacon states, ‘I’ve never been one for “live action” shots… I’ve got to rule the roost. It’s no different dealing with inanimate objects or people, except with people I’m more terrified.’1

This method can be seen in Deacon’s Portrait: Janet Burchill & Jennifer McCamley, artists 1998. Burchill and McCamley, Melbourne and Mildura based collaborative artists, have been arranged in a re-enactment of Henri Matisse’s Conversation 1908-1912. The photograph echoes the deep blue background of the original painting. The two artists hold the stiff positions of Matisse and his seated wife gazing across at each other. This is one of a number of Deacon’s works that feature Australian writers, artists and other notable figures re-enacting iconic paintings. Other examples include artist Fiona Hall in a 2004 retake of Grace Cossington-Smith’s The sock knitter 1915 and a portrait of Gary Foley inspired by William Dobell’s The boy at the basin 1932.

1. Destiny Deacon, ‘Interview with Virginia Fraser’ in Destiny Deacon: walk & don’t look blak, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2004, p. 109.


Ilse Bing (United States of America, Germany 1899-1998) 'Self portrait with Leica' 1931 printed 1941


Ilse Bing (United States of America/Germany, 1899-1998)
Self portrait with Leica
1931 printed 1941
Gelatin silver photograph
26.7 x 31.2cm
Alistair McAlpine Photography Fund 2005
© Ilse Bing Estate. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York



Self portrait with Leica is a complex image in which the artist has photographed herself and her trademark Leica in one mirror, while the profile of both is reflected in another. The large button on her cuff disturbs the play between full face and profile, while the objects at the bottom of the frame lend a certain informality to an otherwise highly contrived set-up. The soft velvety curtain behind introduces a further element of rich tactility. The play between black, white and shades of grey softens and enriches the overall image.

Although Bing avoided becoming part of any specific movement of the 1920s or 1930s – for example, constructivism, the Bauhaus or surrealism, describing herself as being ‘on the edge of the periphery of the Bauhaus’ only – she was fully cognisant of the range of experimentation which was taking place across Europe. She forged her own path, combining an abiding belief in the importance of intuition and poetry with rigorous composition and superb technical skills.

Inspired by the work of Florence Henri, and with increasing confidence in her ability to marry naturalism with geometric formalism, Bing worked extensively as a press, fashion, portrait and documentary photographer in Paris until she was interned as an enemy alien in 1940. Late in her life Bing wrote:

‘I didn’t choose photography; it chose me. I didn’t know it at the time. An artist doesn’t think first and then do it, he [sic] is driven. Now over fifty years later, I can look back and explain it. In a way, it was the trend of the time; it was the time when you started to see differently … And the camera, that was, in a way, the beginning of the mechanical device penetrating into the field of art.’1

1. Barrett N C 1985, Ilse Bing: three decades of photography, New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans pp. 13-14.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007


Robert Rooney (Australia, b. 1937) 'Portrait of Maria Kozic and Philip Brophy II' 1981


Robert Rooney (Australian, 1937-2017)
Portrait of Maria Kozic and Philip Brophy II
Cibachrome photograph
Image/sheet: 20.1 x 30cm
Purchased 1996
© Robert Rooney



The four portraits in the Art Gallery of New South Wales collection reflect a particular period in Australian art, when the now established artists were beginning their careers. They depict members of the contemporary art scene of the late 1970s to mid 1980s associated with Art + Text, an Australian art magazine published from 1981-2000.

Philip Brophy formed the experimental group Tsk Tsk Tsk in 1977. The group produced experimental music, films, videos, and live theatrical performances. Brophy involved his friends in the group, including partner Maria Kozic on synthesiser. Kozic was also producing her own multimedia work. In this photograph, Kozic and Brophy are standing in a suburban backyard complete with Hills Hoist. This is reflective of Tsk Tsk Tsk’s suburban beginnings, based as it was at Clifton Hill’s Community Music Centre. After the group’s dissolution in the early 1980s, Brophy made several experimental films and curated numerous programs for the Melbourne international film festival as well as exhibitions such as Tezuka: the marvel of manga for the National Gallery of Victoria. Kozic moved to New York where she continued her artistic career. Her work has been exhibited widely throughout Australia and overseas and been collected by many museums including the Art Gallery of New South Wales.


Loretta Lux (Germany b. 1969) 'The waiting girl' 2006


Loretta Lux (Germany, b. 1969)
The waiting girl
Ilfochrome photograph
38 × 53cm
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2007
© Loretta Lux/Bild-Kunst. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney



Lux’s portraits are by no means traditional, ‘I call them imaginary portraits. They are not really about the children that I photographed’, commented the artist in interview with Wim van Sinderen (Loretta Lux: new work 2004). In relation to The waiting girl, Lux has said: ‘It’s a picture about time, and timelessness. For me they are sitting on the sofa as if they are waiting for eternity.’ (The Guardian 23 November 06)

Through subtle digital manipulation of the body and facial features of her subjects, Lux creates eerie doll-like creatures with glazed eyes, porcelain smooth skin and subtly ill-proportioned forms. The resulting portraits contain an uncanny blend of mute childish innocence and the self-contained stoicism of adulthood.

Lux’s images of children recall those of the old masters, such as Veláquez, Runge and Bronzino whom she cites as main inspirations alongside German photographer August Sander. Lux has stated in an interview with Louise Baring for the Telegraph (UK) that she uses children ‘as a metaphor for a lost paradise’. Dressing her young models in past fashions (often of the era of her own childhood) suggests the child’s game of ‘dress ups’ in order to be an adult yet somehow played out in reverse. That is, Lux’s children do not seem like children at all, but rather like serious world-weary adults manifested in childish forms.



Spanning over a century, What’s in a face? aspects of portrait photography is an exhibition of 45 photographs from the Art Gallery of NSW collection. The exhibition focuses on crucial points in the history of photographic depictions of the human face ranging from studio portraiture in the late 19th century to contemporary practices today.

Works by Australian photographers, such as Paul Foelsche, Olive Cotton, Max Dupain, Carol Jerrems, Destiny Deacon, Patrina Hicks, Darren Sylvester and others, are placed in an international context, represented by Man Ray, Edward Weston, Iwao Yamawaki, Nan Goldin, Ben Cauchi and Loretta Lux, amongst others.

All portraits reveal something of the sitter, the photographer and also of us as viewers, but none reveal a whole and complete being. This is part of the enduring fascination with the photographic portrait which purports to be an exact likeness but operates more accurately as a metaphor for the self and how that self might exist in the world at a particular point in time.

Judy Annear, senior curator photographs, Art Gallery of NSW

Using photography to depict the face and figure was initially a time-consuming and expensive business. However, the drive to document all things in the world, and rapid technological advances, meant that by the 1880s most people, willing or not and regardless of the photographer’s or their own desires, were documented in some way.

Spurious 19th century ideas to do with what a face could represent exploded in the early 20th century when identity came to be seen as a psychological rather than social phenomenon. Theatricality and performing for the camera, which had existed in photography since its inception, also became much more evident in this period.

In the post-WWII era representations of the face and the body quickly acquired a political and socially aware edge. More recently the face has tended to stand less as an expression of personal experience and more a statement that may signify a set of ideas, whether about the individual, the group or the society at large. Many of these highly constructed images acknowledge and play upon the problematics of the photographic portrait.”

Text from the AGNSW website


Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972) 'Shenae and Jade' 2005


Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972)
Shenae and Jade
From the series Untitled 2005
Lightjet print
85.5 x 80cm
Courtesy the artist and Michael Reid Gallery



Shenae and Jade is typical of Hicks’ unconventional portraits. The young model holds the budgie’s head in her mouth. It’s the kind of slightly dangerous behaviour which can be unnerving to observe. The freckled nose of the model is in tension with her smooth pale temples, heavily lashed closed eyes and soft white top. The luminescent background and generally pale colouration throw the headless body of the brightly coloured budgie into high relief.


Darren Sylvester (Australia, b. 1974) 'They return to you in song' 2001


Darren Sylvester (Australian, b. 1974)
They return to you in song
Lambda print
Image/sheet: 100 x 100cm
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2002
© Darren Sylvester



Informed by the slick stylistic conventions of high-end consumer images, Darren Sylvester’s body of work suggests the existential dilemma of living in an overtly consumerist society – one that promises fulfilment but fails to truly satisfy even the most ardent consumer. Perpetually tantalised with glossy images of affluence, ‘must-have’ products and brochure living, our ‘real’ lives can at times seem unfulfilling by comparison, sometimes painful and often a little pathetic. Sylvester’s work seems to suggest that even in our most personal heartfelt moments, our lives are just like everybody else’s, not so special or unique. Our lives could equally be a series of advertising moments.

Yet the nature of this work is resolutely ambiguous, alternately offering intimacy and emotion with cool detachment. Photo-shopped clean of incidental detail and anomaly, and featuring youthful agency models, Sylvester’s evenly lit, tightly focused images still tap a nerve despite their polished finish. Perhaps this is because they are precisely ‘generic’ (and emotive) experiences to which we can all relate. The same principles underpin a good pop song and in Sylvester’s work this is no coincidence – he strives to produce images that carry the same directness and lasting impact. Commenting on the music of the Carpenters, ‘their lyrics were always sad and about emotional relationships but sealed beneath glossy west coast melodies’, Sylvester reveals the pop-music strategies he employs in his work.1

Based on short stories written by the artist prior to composing the scene, his images carry their own inherent narrative. Yet we don’t need to read Sylvester’s story to understand the drama, nor do we need to hear the tune to recognise the song – it’s an old one, and a shared one, that each of us remembers well.

1. Colless E 2006, ‘Darren Sylvester: the right stuff’, Australian Art Collector, no 36, Apr-Jun p. 102.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007


Hans Hasenpflug (Australia, Germany 1907-1977) 'Untitled (head of a woman)' 1940-1941


Hans Hasenpflug (Australia/Germany 1907-1977)
Untitled (head of a woman)
Gelatin silver photograph
Image: 28.8 x 24.3cm
Gift of Mr Christopher Hamilton, the artist’s son 1984



Hans Hasenpflug arrived in Australia in 1927 aged 20. He had been born into an educated Stuttgart family but it does not appear that he became involved in photography until 1932 when he was employed by Leica Photo Service, Sydney. Hasenpflug went on to work for prominent photographer Russell Roberts from 1935 to 1937 before moving to Melbourne and working with Athol Shmith and other Melbourne studios from 1937 to 1942. As an enemy alien Hasenpflug was not allowed to work on industrial assignments during World War Two but he was not interned and was naturalised in 1945. Hasenpflug exhibited in photography salons in the 1930s and his work appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Woman’s Weekly and the Sunday Telegraph.

Hasenpflug was a versatile advertising photographer. He specialised in fashion and product advertising and some portraiture. Despite his apparent lack of photographic training until the 1930s, he seems to be have been strongly influenced by the European avant-garde. Many of his photographs, regardless of genre or subject matter, depend on diagonals through the picture plane and on raking light.

This is true of Untitled. Strong light has created deep shadows across the subject, a closely cropped image of a woman’s face. This, combined with the oblique camera angle, creates a vivid and disconcerting image. The woman is staring directly into the camera, yet a band of strong shadow across the centre of the image creates a blank eyed effect. The pupil free eyes seem inhuman; mask-like or alien. This is in stark contrast to the woman’s open smile that dominates the bottom of the work. The strong, full light on this area highlights her lips, gums and teeth to an almost hyper real extent. These contradictions create an image that on the surface seems friendly and intimate, yet contains an undertone of threat. The inherent strangeness of the image makes it unlikely that this was a commissioned photograph, but rather the artist’s experiment with his medium, and indeed is probably a portrait of his fiancee, Elizabeth Hamilton Crouch.


Edward Weston (American, 1886-1956) 'Guadalupe de Rivera, Mexico' 1924


Edward Weston (American, 1886-1956)
Guadalupe de Rivera, Mexico
1924, printed later
Gelatin silver photograph
20.7 × 17.8cm
Gift of Patsy W. Asch 2000
© Centre for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents



Edward Weston’s Mexican years were of great importance to him and allowed for the maturing of his vision in relation to photography. Accompanied by Tina Modotti, whose own work developed at this time, Weston experimented with pure form through monumental portraits (of which Guadalupe de Rivera, Mexico is a classic example), images of landscapes and buildings, still-lifes and nudes.

Weston’s portraits of those he encountered in Mexico are uniformly compelling. Often taken with a hand-held camera against a plain background and with strong lighting, these images emphasise individuality, modernity and dynamism.

Guadalupe de Rivera was Diego Rivera’s wife at the time and both were among the group of people Weston and Modotti associated with. Weston described Guadalupe in his ‘Daybooks’ as ‘tall, proud of bearing, almost haughty; her walk like a panther’s, her complexion almost green, with eyes to match’.1 As he worked on the portrait, Weston wrote: ‘I am finishing the portrait of Lupe. It is a heroic head, the best I have done in Mexico; with the Graflex, in direct sunlight I caught her, mouth open, talking, and what could be more characteristic of Lupe! Singing or talking I must always remember her’.2

This later print by Weston emphasises, through the dramatic effect of light and shade, the strong lines of the face. The shape of the open mouth is echoed by the shadowed eye above and the jawline below. The diagonal of jaw to ear which runs in parallel to the nose also adds to the dynamism of this image. Outdoors, with the sun shining on her hair, this is a portrait of a remarkable woman.

1. Newhall N ed 1981, ‘The daybooks of Edward Weston 1 Mexico’, Aperture, New York p. 26.
2. Ibid p. 42.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007


Carol Jerrems. 'Vale Street' 1975


Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Vale Street
Gelatin silver print
20.1 x 30.4cm
Purchased 1979
© Ken and Lance Jerrems



A quintessential image of the 1970s, Vale Street has lost none of its capacity to enchant and disturb in the intervening years. In one sense it can be read as a sociological document; in another as a wholly subjective work of art. Like the mediumistic spirit-photographs of the nineteenth century, Jerrems’s photo seems to disclose the very souls of its subjects. As they respond, each in their individual fashion, to the regarding presence of the camera lens, the figures compose themselves, without theatrics, into telling attitudes. The prominence and bodily confidence of the open-faced young woman is set against the reticence of her boyish companions. As a portrait of relationships as well as individuals, Vale Street speaks of gender relations, adolescent sexuality, suburban mores and the photographer’s own subtly partisan demeanour in regard to these themes.

Art Gallery Handbook, 1999


Carol Jerrems. 'Juliet Holding Vale Street' 1976


Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Juliet Holding Vale Street
Gelatin silver print
30.4 x 20.1cm
Purchased 1979
© Ken and Lance Jerrems


Carol Jerrems. 'Lynn Gailey' 1976


Carol Jerrems (Australian, 1949-1980)
Lynn Gailey
Gelatin silver print
30.3 x 20.1cm
Purchased 1979
© Ken and Lance Jerrems


Max Dupain (Australia 1911-1992) 'Untitled (self portrait)' 1930s


Max Dupain (Australia, 1911-1992)
Untitled (self portrait)
Gelatin silver photograph
19.3 x 14cm
Art Gallery of NSW Collection



This engaging self-portrait by Max Dupain was kept by the artist in an album of photographs from the 1930s. The album was possibly a workbook which would enable Dupain and his clients to review his career as a young modernist photographer. Dupain had opened his own studio in 1934 at the age of 23 having previously been apprenticed to Cecil Bostock and studying painting and drawing at the Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney. In his teens, through the Photographic Society of New South Wales, Dupain had also had contact with Harold Cazneaux whom he later described as ‘the father of modern Australian photography’.1 Both Cazneaux and Bostock provided Dupain with a solid technical and aesthetic base from which to work.

The young working photographer has chosen to depict himself in Untitled (self portrait) with rolled-up sleeves and a furrowed brow. The image is bisected into light in the upper half and dark below with the photographer’s right hand pressing the cable release. Looking away, in three-quarter profile, Dupain is engaged with something out of the frame. The dynamism of the image is further enhanced by the bent arms and the strong shadow of Dupain’s profile.

The 1930s was a period of intense experimentation for Dupain as he applied the lessons learned from Bostock and Cazneaux and absorbed the material in international publications. He mastered solarisation, montage, portraiture, interiors and advertising photography. His interest in form and composition matured. His dedication to his work is manifested in this image.

1. Dupain M 1978, Cazneaux: photographs by Harold Cazneaux 1878-1953, National Library of Australia, Canberra p. xi.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007



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Exhibition: ‘Present Tense: An Imagined Grammar of Portraiture in the New Media Age’ at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra

Exhibition dates: 22nd May – 22nd August 2010


Many thankx to David Edghill and the National Portrait Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Karen Sander. 'Herve Blechy' 1:5 2008


Karen Sander (German, b. 1957)
Herve Blechy 1:5
3D Bodyscans of the living person (3D coordinates and colour texture), MPT (Miniaturised Projection Technology), rapid prototyping, 3D Inkjet printer, plaster material, pigment
Courtesy of the artist, Berlin, and Galerie Nachst St. Stephan, Vienna, and Galerie Helga de Alvear, Madrid


Karen Sander (German, b. 1957) 'Herve Blechy' 1:5 2008


Karen Sander (German, b. 1957)
Herve Blechy 1:5
3D Bodyscans of the living person (3D coordinates and colour texture), MPT (Miniaturised Projection Technology), rapid prototyping, 3D Inkjet printer, plaster material, pigment
Courtesy of the artist, Berlin, and Galerie Nachst St. Stephan, Vienna, and Galerie Helga de Alvear, Madrid.



A good way of looking at the show as a whole is that it is about the interaction of new technologies with the traditional methods of portraiture – painting, sculpture and photography – which already have their own pre-established ‘grammars’… This show foregrounds the fundamental image-making actions which have now become proper to contemporary portraiture. No longer just the snap the of camera’s shutter or the incremental description of the painter’s brush, but now also the trundling progress of the flatbed scanner and the circular pan of the 3D scanner…

In the end this is a humanist show, about ghosts more than shells. It argues that despite all of the cold digital technology in the world portraits are still about the promise of finding the warm interior of a person via their exterior. The show’s inclusion of some three-dimensional ultrasound images of foetuses in the womb could have easily been over-the-top and obvious in its point about our intimate adoption of new imaging technologies. Until we see one intrauterine image of twins in which one foetus is caught sticking its toe into the eye of its sibling. A rivalry which, we think to ourselves, will no doubt continue for the rest of their lives.

Martyn Jolly. “Review of Present Tense: An Imagined Grammar of Portraiture in the New Media Age, on the Martyn Jolly website October 3, 2013 [Online] Cited 10/07/2022


Osang Gwon. 'Metabo' 2009


Osang Gwon (Korean, b. 1974)
C-prints, mixed media
130.0 x 80.0 x 105.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and Arario Gallery, Seoul


Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959) 'Julie, Den Hagg, The Netherlands, February 29, 1994' 1994


Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Julie, Den Hagg, The Netherlands, February 29, 1994
Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery and the artist



The masterful Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra provides the emotional centre of gravity for the show. Her simple nude photographs of startled young mothers clutching their newborn babies like bags of shopping about to burst remind us again of the power of the straight photo. But her stunning two-gun video installation, The Buzzclub, LiverpoolUK / Mysteryworld, Zaandam NL, also from the mid-nineties, confirms the pre-eminence of the video portrait. Dijkstra has, presumably, momentarily pulled young off-their-faces clubbers straight from the dance floors of the two clubs and put them in front of her video camera in a bare white space off to the side. But the laser lightshows and the duff duff are obviously still going on inside their skulls. As they continue to work their jaws and jig robotically we get full voyeuristic access to them and, even though their interior individualities have temporarily gone AWOL, we nonetheless feel an extraordinary tenderness welling up for them.

Martyn Jolly. “Review of Present Tense: An Imagined Grammar of Portraiture in the New Media Age, on the Martyn Jolly website October 3, 2013 [Online] Cited 10/07/2022


Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959) 'Tecla, Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 16 1994' 1994


Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Tecla, Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 16 1994
C-print on paper, mounted on aluminium



Dijkstra decided to make these portraits after witnessing the birth of a friend’s baby. She photographed three women, one hour (Julie), one day (Tecla) and one week (Saskia) after giving birth. The raw immediacy of these images captures something of the contradictions inherent in this common and yet most singular of human experiences. The women appear at once vulnerable and invincible, traumatised and self-composed.

Tate Gallery label, May 2010


Tecla, Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 16, 1994 (1994, above) Julie, Den Haag, Netherlands, February 29 1994 (1994, above) and Saskia, Harderwijk, Netherlands, March 16 1994 (Tate P78099) are three portraits of women made shortly after they had given birth. All the women were known to the artist – one was a personal friend and the other two were friends of friends. Dijkstra photographed the women in their homes because in Holland it is more common for women to give birth at home than in a hospital. While bearing signs of their recent ordeal – the medical pants and sanitary towel which Julie wears, a trickle of blood down the inside of Tecla’s left leg, the caesarean scar on Saskia’s belly – the women appear proud and happy. They hold their new babies turned away from the camera, protectively pressed against their bodies. Dijkstra has developed a way of combining natural light with flash which results in particular quality of soft, clear light. Julie’s left hand covers her baby’s eyes to protect them from the flash.

Dijkstra was inspired to make these portraits after watching the birth of a friend’s baby. She is interested in photographing people at a time when they do not have everything under control. She uses the device of the formally posed, full-length portrait to try to reveal something of what people carry inside them – the emotional intensity concealed behind the mask of the face and the body’s pose. The photographic portrait, titled with the date and place, records a specific moment in time in which the subject was undergoing a particular experience. Dijkstra has commented:

As a photographer you enlarge or emphasise a certain moment, making it another reality. For instance the portraits I made of women after giving birth: the reality of this experience is about the whole atmosphere, which is very emotional. In the photograph, you can scrutinise all the details, which makes it a bit harsh: you can see things you normally would not pay so much attention to. (Quoted in Douglas, p. 79.)

In the same year that Dijkstra photographed the new mothers, she photographed matadors in Portugal, just after they had come out of the ring. Like the new mothers, the bull-fighters had been in emotionally charged, potentially life-threatening situations. Both mothers and matadors are captured in a state of physical and emotional catharsis which contributes to the intensity of their engagement with the camera. Dijikstra uses 4 x 5 inch film to make her portraits, demanding time and concentration on the part of both artist and subject. She is sensitive to the vulnerability which her subjects give her access to and is careful not to abuse their trust. She has explained of the new mothers:

‘It’s amazing how they trust me, and I think that afterwards they understand that these photos are about something universal and that it’s not particularly about them …the first show I had in Amsterdam with these photos a lot of women came to me and said, you know it’s really great that you make these photographs because it’s really the way it is but nobody ever shows it, and I can recognise myself in it. And the men were all like, you can’t show a woman like that.’
(Quoted in unpublished interview with Tate Modern Curator Jane Burton, on the occasion of the exhibition Cruel and Tender, in 2003.)

Elizabeth Manchester
July 2005

Elizabeth Manchester. “Tecla, Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 16 1994,” on the Tate Gallery website Nd [Online] Cited 10/07/2022


The portrait is an art of surface predicated on a paradox – that the rendering of someone’s features will somehow ultimately reveal more than just their outward appearance. It reminds me of the twist at the core of Tarkovsky’s film Solaris, (one of the greatest films about identity and representation) where the sceptical psychologist is finally forced to conclude, despite his rationalism, that ‘we need secrets to preserve simple human truths’. But how can the secretive preserve the truthful? It’s a question that Dijkstra, in her portraits, attempts to answer, albeit enigmatically and allusively. A withholding of information and obsession with surface makes her portraits feel recognisably human. They’re so riddled with secrets they practically breathe.

Perhaps it’s to do with the scale of the images, which are large and impossible to overlook, and her palette, which is almost as subtle and perfect as her 17th- and 18th-century precursors. If the Dutch and Flemish portrait painters looked at the world with eyes that anticipated photography, it could be said that Dijkstra continues the cycle by looking at photography through the lens of historical painting. …

Dijkstra’s portraits of three young mothers (Julia, Saskia and Tecla, all 1994) holding their new born babies to their chests with absolute, exhausted tenderness, exemplifies the restraint and deceptive simplicity of her approach towards representing people whose lives have been touched by commonplace but monumental change. Replace the sand with a floor and the sky with a hospital wall and the only thing that separates these images from the beach series is the nature of the transition that these people are experiencing. Our culture’s puritanical fear of the body, so beautifully reflected for hundreds of years in scores of paintings of bloodless, saintly motherhood, is countered in these truthful, unflinching images. One mother stands in her underwear, her sanitary pad bulgingly visible. The other two women stand naked, swollen, scarred and bloody. They all, as well they might, look faintly triumphant.

I can’t remember a show where the audience stood for so long in front of a series of images of ordinary people. The same can be said of Dijkstra’s video in which she isolated teenagers against a white background in two night-clubs (The Buzz Club in Liverpool, England and Mystery World in Zaandam, Netherlands) and videoed them dancing, mainly alone, to the camera. Each of them, of course, responded differently to the absence of those clubbing staples, dim lights and crowds – they danced self-consciously and smoked defiantly. Some flirted with the camera, others looked almost annoyed. Most of them, despite trying very hard not to be, looked very young, rather forlorn, sweet even. The audience watched, riveted. The film was long and repetitive, but mysteriously and compulsively viewable.

Jennifer Higgie. “Rineke Dijkstra – Young Mothers,” on the Sihyun Art website, February 2012 [Online] Cited 07/07/2022




Video of Rineke Dijkstra “The Buzzclub, Liverpool, UK / Mysteryworld, Zaandam, NL”, 1996-1997. Presented in exhibition at Mücsarnok, Budapest, “Coolhunters. Youth cultures between media and the market”, 23 March 2006 – 28 May 2006.

The video was recorded pulling people out of the dance floor of a nightclub and inserting it in a white cube. The behaviour on the dance floor as part of the group, here so isolated as a rare person, an indigenous moved to the museum space.


Robert Lazzarin. 'Skull' 2000


Robert Lazzarini (American, b. 1965)
Resin, bone, pigment
35.0 x 8.0 x 20.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and Deitch Projects



Present Tense: An Imagined Grammar of Portraiture in the New Media Age is the principal exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery’s 2010 exhibition calendar. It will be displayed from 22 May to 22 August 2010. We are entering an exceptional time for portraiture and visual culture in general as the art world embraces the digital age. Traditional portraiture is responding to the application of new technologies and this imaging process is reshaping our interpretation and reading of the face.

Present Tense considers the alliance between portraiture and technology, showing how different ways of imaging in this contemporary, digital world reflect the way an individual is perceived and the various mechanisms of imaging that are used to manipulate that perception. The exhibition is comprised of works by Australian and international artists’ and includes examples of the informal and immediate images made on mobile phones, images recorded with sonograms that reveal faces that cannot be seen by the unaided eye, 2D and 3D portraits generated exclusively from binary code, as well as the more expected streaming digital works and manipulated photographs.

‘Some of the images in Present Tense are confronting and some are positively endearing’, said exhibition Curator Michael Desmond. ‘The exhibition surveys the possibilities of portraiture today, with the premise that the inhabitants’ of our digital society are pictured in a technological mirror’.

The use of digital technologies by artists is increasing, providing affordable alternatives to traditional media and offering a new tool set and the possibility of a new aesthetic. This is not to suggest that older media has been abandoned, or is associated only with conservative practice, rather that artists’ have greater choice in the materials that they use and the style that they wish to engage with. Chuck Close is one of artists’ in the exhibition who ignores the rising tide of digital imaging processes to favour old technology, creating powerful images with the archaic daguerreotype technique. Other artists’ in Present Tense include: Loretta Lux, Patrick Pound, Stelarc, Jonathon Nichols, Petrina Hicks, Ghostpatrol, Patricia Piccinini and more.

‘At one time, oil on canvas or bronze was the medium for portraits. The medium now is technology. In an inversion of one of Modernism’s classic aphorisms, digital technology allows function to follow form; the function of the portrait – to illustrate an individual’s character and physiognomy – is established by the stamp of the technology that created it’, said Michael Desmond.

Press release from the National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 06/08/2010


Chuck Close. 'Self portrait daguerreotype' 2000


Chuck Close (American, 1940-2021)
Self portrait daguerreotype
16.5 x 21.6 cm each
Courtesy of Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York


Patricia Piccinini. 'Psychogeography' 1996


Patricia Piccinini (Australian, b. 1965)
From the series Psycho
Type C colour photograph
120.0 x 247.0cm
Courtesy of the Parliament House Art Collection, Department of Parliamentary Services, Canberra


Stelarc. 'Stretched skin' 2009


Stelarc (Australian born Cyprus, b. 1946)
Stretched skin
type C photograph
120.0 x 180.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and Scott Livesey Galleries


Jonathan Nichols (Australian, b. 1956) 'Lucy' 2001


Jonathan Nichols (Australian, b. 1956)
Courtesy of James and Jacqui Erskine, Sydney


Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972) 'Ghost in the Shell' 2008


Petrina Hicks (Australian, b. 1972)
Ghost in the Shell
From the series The Descendents
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney



There can be no doubt that we are entering an exceptional time for portraiture as the art world embraces the digital age. Traditional portraiture is responding to the application of new technologies and this imaging process is reshaping our interpretation and reading of the face.

The use of the computer and the internet at the most basic level to source or digitalise images is pervasive. Artists are using digital technologies as alternatives to traditional media and offering the possibility of a new aesthetic. The ease of manipulating an image is a prime aspect of portraiture in the digital age and equally important is the ease of distribution. Artists seek out images on the internet and send out or ‘post’ their own, setting up their own virtual galleries using social media such as Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Tumblr.

The National Portrait Gallery exhibition Present Tense: An imagined grammar of portraiture in the digital age considers the alliance between portraiture and technology and investigates how different ways of imaging reflect how the individual is perceived as well as how the various mechanisms of imaging that are used to manipulate that perception.

Present Tense includes examples of the informal and immediate digital snapshots made with mobile phones; images recorded with sonograms that reveal faces that cannot be seen by the unaided eye; 2d and 3d portraits generated exclusively from binary code; and the more expected videos and manipulated photographs. A number of artists in the exhibition ignore the rising tide of digital imaging processes to favour old technology and create powerful images with the archaic daguerreotype technique or cruder still, old-fashioned stencil.

Video is still the dominant filmic medium. It is a difficult medium for portraiture as the narrative is the signifying factor of this temporal medium. Artist Petrina Hicks tackles this directly in her video portraits. In Ghost in the shell 2008 there are no props to convey identity in a conventional sense; the video is a slow pan of objectivity across the visage of a girl, unimpeded by good manners or fear. The camera records every detail, as her head pivots though 360 degrees and we are able to study and scrutinise the face and enjoy the sheer beauty of youth. The scanning view and the model’s perfect features conjure up the notion of a computer-aided design program that displays the object created by a 3d graphic application. Exhaled smoke emerges from the girl’s mouth in Art Nouveau curls and undulating arabesques. The combination of stilled, unemotional beauty makes the mobile, insubstantial smoke a metaphor for the soul. This is the ghost of the title but also a portrait of the inner self that inhabits all of us. Hicks makes a poetic contrast between the mapped surface and the unseen interior.

Zombies, vampires and plagues that decimate humankind to a few survivors haunt the movie and television screens of this decade. They represent the uncomfortable intimacy and connectedness of contemporary society – the six degrees of separation. While Jonathan Nichols’ portraits Lucy 2001, Nina 2002, and Smiling 2003 are hardly ghoulish the aura of uneasiness that surrounds them derives from the sense of being connected. Using social networks we can connect with fame and celebrity and we are also able to broadcast ourselves. The biggest and most varied galleries of portraits today are websites such as Facebook. These portrait galleries are more likely to display the girl next door rather than the glamorous magazine cover girls. Exhibitionism and voyeurism are implicit in posting portraits online. The aesthetic is bland and gives away little. They are image of self that are safe to broadcast. Nichols uses images taken from the internet to test the ‘look’ of such portraits. There is the hint of smiles to break the passport photo impassiveness, neutrality with a touch of erotic potential, enough personality to separate these anonymous faces from the crowd, and perhaps the comfort of looking at a face and knowing we all are connected.

Ghostpatrol & Miso are street artists who work together creating an extended portrait of a place, the inner Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy. Their portrait layers the views and experiences of inner city living as a sensual rather than documentary composite. Fitzroy 2010 is an homage to the streets of Fitzroy that Ghostpatrol & Miso have explored, stencilled, pasted and postered. Fitzroy is their platform for communication and the multiple images in this work are a response to the streets and the urban network of windows, houses and streets. Fitzroy is a self portrait, illustrating the artists’ perspective and their story in the city.

James Dodd, like Ghostpatrol & Miso, makes the streets his gallery. His posters from Occupied territory 2003 return to an established way of broadcasting and connecting, not by phone or internet, but by placing his portrait posters in the natural nodes and pathways where people travel and congregate. His faces in the streets – George W Bush, Saddam Hussein, Elizabeth II, Osama Bin Laden, John Howard – are powerful individuals who literally occupy the territory as they do the media. Advertisement, wanted poster or propaganda, Dodd employs the hand-made look of stencil to equalise differences between world leaders and as a means to counter the ubiquitous urbane and subjective portraits presented by mainstream new media with a fresh alternative.

The idea of creating accurate three dimensional portraits has always fascinated humanity. Here are portraits that are inseparable from the technology that created it. Robert Lazzarini sculpts forms with the computer. In making Skull 2000 he had little or no contact with traditional art materials. Lazzarini uses materials as close as possible to the original – in this case the skull is bone, though reconstituted with a resin binder. Anamorphic forms like this are measured against an ideal or archetype. The distorted form plays on our ability to recognise common forms such as a face or death’s head and reconstruct them in the mind.

So, having considered Lazzarini’s computer created sculpture, is it Karin Sander or the machine that created Hervé Blechy 1:5 2008? The artist herself didn’t touch any art materials or intervene in the process which involves the subject being photographed from all angles by multiple cameras; the images sent to a computer application that creates 3d models from photos and the resultant model is then sent to a rapid prototyping machine which generates the model in white plastic. This, in turn, is painted by an assistant. In 1967 Sol LeWitt declared that ‘The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.’ Sander’s mini-monuments, which she refers to as ‘assisted self portraits’ are classic examples of conceptual art, but with the neat twist that if an idea is as ephemeral as data, then here, data takes on materiality.

Portraiture with its strict focus on the recognisable image of the individual face is resistant to change despite the many movements and styles in the twentieth century and adoption of new digital technologies in the last decade. And although more choices of media available to the artist who is now able to make portraits using digital photography, digital video or installation the effect of the digital age is probably less on form and more on society. The use of digital media is near ubiquitous in part of the portrait process today. Photography, once considered an objective record of a sitter, as digital photography has gained the persuasive power of painting to subtly alter features and flatter beyond candid or objective description. There is greater spread and distribution with the increasing emphasis on the photographic but this may be only temporary as other forms and hybrids come online with 2d and 3d computer applications.

There is an increasing separation from old materials that slop, mess, spill in favour of keyboards and mice and the artist’s studio is starting to look like an executive’s work space. Research is done online and sketches are made on the camera rather than drawn from life and art is accordingly mediated from the start. Medium is less important than media, and in fact the term ‘medium’ is already starting to be an art historical term. Today, technology is not merely the means of transmission, it is the medium of so much contemporary art. While technology changes, the human face is a constant, mediated by fashion, politics and technological change. It is rewarding to look at portraits in terms of the technology that made it.

Michael Desmond. “Technical Terminology,” on the National Portrait Gallery website, 1 June 2010 [Online] Cited 10/07/2022



Present Tense: An imagined grammar of portraiture in the digital age

Senior Curator Michael Desmond talks about the exhibition Present Tense held at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra from 22 May – 22 August 2010.


James Dodd (Australian, b. 1977) Posters from 'Occupied Territory' 2010 (installation view)


James Dodd (Australian, b. 1977)
Posters from Occupied Territory (installation view)
Courtesy of the artist, Adelaide


GhostPatrol & Miso (David Booth and Stanislava Pinchuck) (Australian) 'Fitzroy' 2010


GhostPatrol & Miso (David Booth and Stanislava Pinchuck) (Australian)
Courtesy of the artists, Melbourne


Aaron Seeto. 'Oblivion' 2006


Aaron Seeto
From the series Oblivion



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



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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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