RAW: Tracey Moffatt – Narratives – AGSA

Laudanum no. 1 by Tracey Moffatt

Something More (no. 3)

By Kelli Rowe

The dynamic link between the image and the story was at the heart of the recent exhibition of leading Australian contemporary artist, Tracey Moffatt: Narratives, at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

The formal language of images and contemporary visual culture, from Hollywood film to the family photo album, was explored through seven of Moffatt’s photographic series and ten DVD works. The exhibition begins with her groundbreaking Something More (1989), a heavily stylised photographic series that depicts a loose narrative surrounding a young aboriginal woman in Asian dress (Moffatt herself), and questions ideas of authenticity, desire, cultural identification and meaning within a veiled representation of sadomasochism.

Moffatt continually explores divisive social issues such as race, sexuality and cultural memory, while exploring the significance of certain styles of visual culture. For example, the two series Scarred for Life (1994) and Scarred for Life II (1999) explore these ideas through the theme of childhood trauma. The photographs are constructed to mimic the washed-out and faded quality of family photo albums and are presented in the format of the American magazine Life in order to question the provocative link between the caption and the image.

Diverse visual references, from Goya and Dalí to the comic strip and soap opera, infuse her emotionally charged and controversial subject matter. Invocations (2000) explores eerie dream sequences, while Laudanum (1999) confronts the thorny relationships of gender, class and sexuality through haunting images of a Victorian-era madam and her Asian maid.

It is a pity that Tracey Moffatt: Narratives, the first major exhibition of Moffatt’s work in Adelaide, was only shown for a short time as part of the Adelaide Film Festival. Yet, it is encouraging to see the Gallery engaging with provocative contemporary Australian and international art, with AES+F’s The Feast of Trimalchio opening 2011, followed by Tracey Moffatt: Narratives, and still to come the incredible Australian hyperrealist sculptor, Patricia Piccinini, whose exhibition Once Upon a Time will open on 16 April.

Images Details:

(Left)  Laudanum (no. 1)

from the series of 19 prints ‘Laudanum’ 1998
photogravure on paper
76.0 × 57.0 cm (plate)
Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

(Right)  Somthing More (no. 3)

from the series of 9 photographs ‘Something More’ 1989
direct positive colour photograph
98.0 × 127.0 cm (image)
Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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