“Appropriation is to use something with the idea that people will identify the static between its former social presence and the way you’re presenting it now” — John Curran
While working on this series of 22 paintings over the year of 2018, in my mind I always referred to it as ‘Hollow People’ because the people in the photographs were almost always anonymous. Their images survived but not their names or stories; not their substance.
The series builds on my past work, which explored the impacts of the still image, the anonymous historical image, and existing and imposed narratives, especially as they relate to women.
What is present in these works? They are images that shape cultural and gender identity; they testify to cultural appropriation (multi layers of this going on); they are portraits of beauty, adornment, tribal belonging, petulance, comedy and oppression. But our almost instinctive knowledge of the sitters’ objectification and subjugation is counter balanced by the humour created by the incongruity of their settings. The visual language draws on the history of art and various cultural traditions.
Many artists feel an irresistible compulsion to scavenge and appropriate. My drive to understand why was a parallel occupation during the time of creating these paintings. The result of that was a jointly curated group show with my excellent friends Andrea Hughes and Polly Hollyoak, Scavenged, Black Cat Gallery, 95 Johnston Street, Collingwood, 3-14 April, 2019
Here is a list of the paintings with some notes on the sources I used:
How much of me is here?
Daguerreotype of anonymous girl, unknown photographer, ca. 1850-ca. 1860, collection of University of Antwerp
Epirus, my heart
“Costumes Grecs”, hand coloured postcard, unknown photographer, ca 1870; background from Instagram
“Women of Constantinople”, albumen silver photograph by Pascal Sebah, 1873, from left to right, Greek Girl, Armenian bride, Turkish girl from Istanbul; background from Instagram
Hand coloured albumen silver photograph, Talma & Co., ca. 1880.
Toi et moi
‘Vlachs from Albania’, albumen silver photograph, ca. 1880, unknown photographer; Otways in background
Le femme extraordinaires
‘Working woman’ by Baron von Stillfried, albumen silver photograph, National Museum of Denmark, ca. 1875; wallpaper from Nautigals in Apollo Bay; composition after Edward Hopper ‘Rooms by the sea’
Chic. Chic. Cool. Cool.
Anonymous couple, hand coloured photograph by unknown photographer, ca. 1920; background from Instagram
Groom stripped bare
‘Japanese Gentleman in Western Garb’, tinted albumen silver photograph, 1875-1878, Baron von Stillfried; room setting is taken from the recreation of Duchamp’s room: *la chute d’eau, (the waterfall) *le gaz d’eclairage (the eliminating Gas…) 1946-1966, now Philadelphia Museum of Art.
‘Miss G. Graham’, toned gelatin silver photograph by Ruth Hollick, ca. 1920-ca. 1930, collection of State Library Victoria; background from Instagram
‘Concubine with bound feet’ [title attributed by artist] by Lai-Wah & Co, Shanghai, ca. 1899-ca. 1910, collection of State Library Victoria; background – Staircase designed by Leonardo da Vinci in 1516, Chateau de La Rochefoucauld Castle, France
“Young woman with hookah”, albumen silver photograph by J. Pascal Sebah, ca. 1870; background from Instagram
Afrique, latest fashion
“Omani women in Zanzibar, latest fashion” by Gomes & Co., ca. 1895; Otways background.
Waiting for/Theatre de La Huchette
Unknown women, glass lantern slide with hand colouring, ca. 1900, unknown photographer; cinema views of the Theatre de La Huchette, Paris.
“Veiled Omano women in Zanzibar” by Gomes & Co., albumen silver photograph, ca. 1895; background after Grant Wood.
“Korean Couple in Street Dress, Seoul, Korea”, 1904, glass lantern slide, unknown photographer; background from Instagram
“Fille de Shanghai”, albumen silver photograph, by Baron von Stillfried, 1872, (with modern colour enhancement); raining caryatids after ‘Golconda’ by René Magritte, 1953.
Ma vie en rose
“Bride’s traditional costume from Roumlouki, Macedonia, Greece”, albumen silver photograph, ca. 1900, unknown photographer; background from Instagram
Merchande de pommes, or Factory of inequality
“Marchande d’oranges Alexandria”, albumen silver carte-de-visite, by Hippolyte Delie, 1869; background, British Museum colonnade
Anonymous child, ambrotype by unknown photographer, ca. 1865 background from Instagram
Secrets, they surface
‘Fille de Lanzhou’, albumen silver photograph, by Baron von Stillfried, ca. 1870 (collection of The MET)
Kensington window, albumen silver photograph by Clementina Hawarden, 1863-64
Speak my name
Anonymous young woman, ambrotype ca. 1860; unknown photographer