The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Japan
The Art Centre, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
12th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh, India
Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, Vietnam
Nanyang Academy of Fine Art, Singapore
ARTISTS: Pat Brassington, Cherine Fahd, Eliza Hutchison, Tracey Moffatt, David Noonan and Simon Trevaks, Darren Siwes, Darren Sylvester, Monika Tichacek, Anne Zahalka.
CURATOR: Natalie King
Supernatural Artificial was a joint project of Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces and the Asialink Centre of The University of Melbourne, Supernatural Artificial was part of the Australia-Japan Art Exhibitions Program, an initiative of Asialink and the Australia-Japan Foundation. It was further supported by the Australia Council, the Australian Government’s arts funding and advisory body, Arts Victoria and the Australian Embassy, Tokyo.
Nine contemporary Australian artists deployed narrative tinged with psychological elements to create magical, supernatural and fake worlds.
Within this exhibition, Pat Brassington explored the notion of para-psychology in unsettling dioramas. Her doctored, digital prints presented familiar things that have been profoundly altered. Surreal, funny and sometimes perverse, her photographs revealed strange bodily forms such as two sets of legs under a hoop skirt or the distorted profile of a plastic doll.
Cherine Fahd’s silver gelatin photographs depicted different women running through a man made forest of pines. Dressed in artificial grass, Fahd’s women seemed to be in a trance or dream state perhaps experiencing a kind of magical adventure. Whether searching, yearning or escaping, these characters seemed impelled towards a fantastical unknown.
Eliza Hutchison has combined fashion, avant-gardism and vaudeville in burlesque environments. Within this exhibition, The Entertainers was a series of photographic performance portraits documenting people hanging upside down. Hutchison had styled the subjects as exaggerated characters in order to capture a range of physical as well as psychological responses to the action of gravity on the body. Like film stills, the portraits presented bloated faces under extreme strain questioning notions of representation and ugliness.
Tracey Moffatt’s moody and dreamlike series Invocations returned us to the world of fairytales and storytelling. Using rondel and elliptical shaped magical scenes, Moffatt showed a black girl wandering through a fantastical forest of trees and witches invoking the supernatural. Here Walt Disney met The Wizard of Oz in the Australian outback. Indigenous artist Moffatt was able to invoke a haunting, contemporary fable filled with fear and melodrama.
David Noonan and Simon Trevaks’ immersive and hypnotic video installation, objects and architectural environments alluded to gothic psychodramas. Influenced by science fiction and B-grade horror movies, they presented a fantasy world populated by owl wallpaper and a folk light housed in a timber chamber. Fabricated like a film set, the mysterious film of a girl in a trance wandering in a forest proved both atmospheric and cinematic.
Indigenous artist Darren Siwes’ photographs of ghosted figures superimposed on architectural and landscape scenes suggested supernatural and haunted worlds. Shot at night, using time-lapse exposure, Siwes inserted his self-image as a ghostly presence accompanied by a masked female character within the urban landscape. Strangely beautiful, the urban landscape was imbued with a surreal character and the looming presence of indigenous identity.
For this exhibition, Darren Sylvester took our emotional lives and the bittersweet futility of dreams as his subject. Like a film or music recording, his photographs started off as a diaristic short story refined into a single image. Heavily narrative in content, his images were like stills from a movie. For example, the work They return to you in song depicted a moment of remembering a broken relationship, triggered by a pop song on the car radio.
Monika Tichacek was instantly drawn to Amanda Lepore – a transsexual in New York – especially the way she has transformed her body. In her photographs and hypnotic video, Tichacek presented an array of prosthetics and fake body parts set amidst a satin boudoir. Her preoccupation with perfection of the body, cosmetic surgery and notions of beauty were explored with two female figures in different poses. Here Matthew Barney mets Orlan.
Anne Zahalka’s Natural Wonders series investigated fake and spectacular environments through large scale photographic images taken in real locations. Her intensely saturated photographs of places of entertainment acted as ‘unnatural wonders’ - places where nature is turned into spectacle through tourism or where nature is constructed within theme parks for fantasy or illusion. There proved an eerie sensibility in these astonishingly detailed images of artifice.