Catherine Nelson | Polixeni Papapetrou | Bronek Kozka | Gerard O’Connor & Marc Wasiak | Alexia Sinclair
While the Australian continent is one of the oldest landmasses on earth and is home to the longest continuous culture on earth, paradoxically, it is considered by many as one of the youngest new worlds. For many thousands of years it was a land undisturbed by the western world, avoiding discovery by global maritime explorers. For immigrants – initially from Europe and now from all corners of the globe including Asia – it is still regarded as a land of hope and optimism.
Today, Australia is a richly multicultural society with a creative culture and increasing confidence looking both inward, to its ancient indigenous heritage and outward, to its diverse international roots. Embracing digital technologies, it’s photo-media artists are simultaneously at ease with the old and the new in expressing their imagination, as did their forebears when portraying what ‘Terra Australis’ might be like.
Looking back as a means of defining contemporary identity is a device employed the artists in New Worlds. Each independently examine and reference the past – whether using historical pastiche, design, memory or landscape – this rewinding of time inevitably forces us to dissect the present and our subsequent contemplation of the future. As explorers of the psyche and adventurers in a visual landscape of endless possibility they are essentially drawn back to their own personal heritage and interests. Together they create a New World for all to visit, take stock, question and consider the destination where our own journeys may take us.
The Museum of Photography, Seoul, Republic of Korea, 28 August – 26 September 2011
Portraying ‘memory’ by playing on the ambiguity of fact and fiction in our ability to recall a scene or event, Bronek Kozka’s meticulously constructed and elaborate tableaux are at once familiar, unsettling, and at times melancholic. Stories meld with real memories as Kozka explores the construction of memory in relation to the shared spaces we inhabit as human beings and the psychological anxiety that can arise from sharing these spaces.
Set in the ubiquitous Australian suburbia, the images have a hyper-real quality. There is uncertainty in the images between whether it is night or day, dream or reality and filmic references are utilised to produce a dark and at times dissolute, mood. They bring to the surface the tensions that strain beneath the apparent comfortableness of domestic life. While the images may depict a single moment, they draw us into a sense of narrative; of what happened before and what will happen next.
Bronek Kozka (b. 1970) is an award-winning artist and academic based at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne. He has shown widely in Australia and also in China, France, Italy and USA. His work has featured in Hasselblad Masters Vol. 1 (2008) and Hijacked 2: Australia & Germany (2010).
In her recent series, Between Worlds, Polixeni Papapetrou uses animal masks to create curious tableaux that are at once familiar and strange. She considers childhood as a transitional space between infancy and the adult world. Children are between states, just as these animal–person hybrids exist in an imaginative space between human and non-human. They are the ‘other’ in contrast to which the adult human world defines itself. However, these characters are nonetheless affecting and remind us, just as the Danish children’s author Hans Christian Andersen’s tales do, not to judge character by appearance but by the inner qualities of the individual
The work grows out of the continuing collaborative exploration of the artist with her children as they stand on the brink of adolescence. Teenage is a time of turmoil and inner conflict as the individual takes the turbulent journey from the land of childhood to the continent of the adults.
For many cultures, animals come to symbolise more universal human qualities. We project ourselves onto other creatures and we anthropomorphise their behaviour as though it were humanly motivated. Consequently, her images are simultaneously impossible and interpretable, unnatural and familiar.
Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018) is an internationally acclaimed photo-media artist based in Melbourne, Australia. She has shown widely in Australia and also in China, France, Greece, Japan, The Netherlands, Slovakia and USA. Her work is held in many public and private collections.
Princes, warlords, dandies and diplomats take the stage in Alexia Sinclair’s Royal Dozen (2007-2010) who complement the earlier series The Regal Twelve (2005-2007) which features female monarchs and their associated mythologies. The artist has selected an unusual blend of royalty and nobility from history based on their contrasting approaches to leadership, their distinctive flamboyancies and their enduring influence upon society. Six works from each series of twelve have been selected for the New Worlds exhibition.
Alexia Sinclair travelled the world to photograph the architecture and landscapes used in these images, before returning to Australia to design and construct bespoke costuming for each character and search out suitable models. The costumed models and props were then photographed in the studio. The final artworks are formed from thousands of photographs and illustrations in an innovative process taking many weeks. It is a process of construction akin as much to painting as to photography, but retaining photography’s curiously tenacious connection with the real. Stylistically referencing the Renaissance, Sinclair weaves symbolic motifs into each portrait that reflect the emblems and stories associated with each historical figure.
Alexia Sinclair (b. 1976) is an award-winning Australian fine Art photographer and digital artist. Her work has toured Australia, featured on national television and been presented at major festivals in China and France. An artist equally at home in the museum or on the pages of magazines, she also applies her skills in the commercial world including clients American Express, Canon, Harpers Bazaar, Opera New Zealand and Qantas Airlines.
Visual poetry, nature photography and digital design come together in the transcendent landscapes of Catherine Nelson. Shot in Australia and Western Europe, each natural environment is dramatically reformed into a perfect globe floating serenely in space.
The images are rich with detail and each captures the essence of place as a complex ecological story. The result is a contemporary pictorial mythology that subtly reminds the viewer of a profound truth: that it is in the flourishing variety of the local that the fate of the world resides. Nelson has worked on many acclaimed films including Moulin Rouge, Harry Potter, 300 and Australia.
Catherine Nelson (b. 1970) originally trained as a painter, studied at Chelsea College of Art & Design, London (1992) before graduating from the College of Fine Arts, Sydney (1996). Based in Ghent, Belgium and Sydney, Australia she has shown in Australia, China, France and Italy and is the recipient of the Royal Bank of Scotland, ‘Clients Choice Award’ for the ‘Emerging Artist Award’, Sydney (2010).
Gerard O’Connor & Marc Wasiak
With a raucous, irreverent grandeur, the photographs of Gerard O’Connor morph the diverse traditions of William Hogarth’s 18th-century moral satires, 19th-century History Painting and the saturated ‘Technicolor’ of 20th-century Hollywood Classics.
Working with stylist Marc Wasiak and collaborating with post-production specialists Harry Rekas or Visual Thing, O’Connor’s richly composed images take the viewer on a turbulent ride through the re-enacted mayhem of social, cultural and historical landscapes.
Their shared eye for the detailing of character and costume, and the layering of plot, transforms each tableau into a heroic melodrama with all the pitch of a cinematic epic. Beyond the initial impact deeper concerns are raised over the romantic pedestal we elevate past conflicts and histories to, and those directly affected as the fall out takes effect.
Gerard O’Connor (b. 1963) is an Australian photographer working in fashion, advertising and editorial alongside a burgeoning fine art practice. He has exhibited in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore. His commercial portfolio includes global brands Cadbury, Pepsi and Nokia.
Marc Wasiak (b. 1971) is a highly regarded stylist. Working in art, fashion and advertising he has collaborated with O’Connor since the mid-90’s and studied Fine Arts at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and Graphic Design at Melbourne University.
The exhibition was created especially for The Museum of Photography, Seoul by the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney as part of a bilateral exhibition exchange to mark the Year of Friendship between Australia and the Republic of Korea.
Generously supported by the Australia-Korea Foundation, Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.