Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pat Brassington - À Rebours - INTERVIEWS

Australian Artist Pat Brassington hails from a printmaking and photography background at the University of Tasmania. The artist is considered the foremost Australian practitioner in photomedia and is the subject of a large survey show opening this August as part of ACCA’s Influential Artist’s series.

“The 80s were heady times – ideologies were under the microscope and theories linked to the politics of representation were all pervasive. Perhaps I was revving up then in attempts to get off the ground”, reflects Brassington at a time when Postmodernism was the prevailing trend in cultural sphere and the idea that nothing was original anymore permeated western thought. She continues. “The notion that nothing is original any more is a conceit and that makes me melancholy! It’s still a very big world and there are vast terrains yet to be negotiated.”

We talk about the cusp of analogue and digital during the late 1980’s and how it felt at the time, the challenges at the brink of a new imaging age. “I felt Resistance for a time. The tide of digital imagery did not lap at my consciousness until the 90’s. Art practice often includes a good deal of musing, of untied thoughts and fanciful mental image concepts that are mostly little rehearsals that which will never reach the stage. Making requires thinking in material, a heuristic process of discovery and lots of dead ends. The evidence of a steam of thought is there to be pushed about in the hope of redemption until you click it off.”

“I was not particularly attracted to colour photography, I preferred working in black and white. But I recall vividly experimenting with hand-colouring black and white silver gelatine prints. Interestingly enough I found food colouring quite effective and relatively stable. And yes the artificiality or quirkiness of those hand tinted studio portrait photographs seduce me. I frequently continue to call on my archive of black and white negatives. These are scanned to a computer then via Photoshop I introduce colour. Yes, it’s akin to tinting and I do have a predilection for shades of redness. ‘Blood in the veins.”

Is there an early and influential memory of art or art making that continues to inform your work?

I’ve not forgotten coveting my friend’s huge box of Derwent colour pencils. I must have been around 7 or 8 years old. I was always hanging out waiting to be invited next-door. We would spend ages copying fashion sketches from women’s magazines.

I also remember playing with dirt. I mean modelling things from mud.

I was attracted to art from an early age but visceral interaction was generally limited to reproductions of paintings that occasionally popped up in popular magazines lying around the house, or the odd one or two printed reproductions of paintings that appeared on the walls of primary schools.

Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring was an image I remember well. There were only a couple of images gracing the walls at home and I recall being particularly disturbed by both of them. One was a post-card size reproduction of Holman-Hunt’s, The Light of the World- the Christ figure terrified me. A bogey-man I thought! The other was a large black and white print depicting a scene from ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ - the wounded and dead soldiers and horses alarmed me.

An early photographic memory?

My parents didn’t own a camera. But they did subscribe to the norm at that time which was to have family photographs taken at a commercial photographer’s studio or in the home. Most families valued photographs as a record of the years, a bit like the marks on the door-jam depicting their kids growth.

I think my awareness of ‘the photographic’ was mostly derived from the moving image. I was a Saturday matinee movie junky.

I have to say that I didn’t begin to appreciate still photography as an art form until I went to Art School.

I think it was Australian Arts writer Ashley Crawford dubbed you the foremost surrealist working with photomedia- what are your thoughts about this observation?

Commentary on my work invariably references Surrealism I think because collage is a dominant force in my work, and yes I’m oft quoted as having expressed interest in some of Freud’s concepts. And, yes I am interested in Surrealism amongst the pantheon of international contemporary art.

Your sense of belonging?

I’m here in Tasmania - I could say via force of circumstance - and ‘grounded’ but having said that belonging somewhere seems somewhat arbitrary to me.

Pat Brassington: À Rebours

As part of its Influential Australian Artist series, ACCA will present a survey of works by leading Australian photo-based artist Pat Brassington from August 11.

Pat Brassington was one of the first artists to recognize the potential of the digital format, and has used it to create an enormous body of work – images that are hauntingly beautiful, deeply psychological, and sometimes disturbing.

À Rebours brings together works from Brassington’s exceptional 30 year career, presented over a series of small rooms aimed to emphasise the unsettling domesticity and claustrophobic atmosphere in her images.  The exhibition title is inspired by the banned 1884 French novel of the same name, which in English translates as ‘against nature’ or ‘against the grain’. 

Brassington was born in 1942 in Tasmania, and studied printmaking and photography at the Tasmanian School of Art in the early eighties She has exhibited in a number of group exhibitions including Feminism never happened, IMA, Brisbane (2010), On Reason and Emotion, Biennale of Sydney (2004) and in solo exhibitions at Art One Gallery, Melbourne, Monash University Museum of Art and Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne.

Pat Brassington:  À Rebours
August 11 to 23 September 2012

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 111 Sturt Street, Southbank.
Gallery hours:  Tuesday-Friday 10am–5pm.  Weekends 11am-6pm.  Mondays by appointment.  Tel: 03 9697 9999.  Admission: Free.

IMAGE ABOVE: from Memory Au Rebours, 1989

First Published- INPRESS July 4

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