Monday, September 28, 2015

An Old Technique for a Modern Picture

“So as long as it keeps evolving,
and you really feel like you’re growing through the work,
then it’s worth doing."
Robyn Stacey

With her earlier works, the Australian photographer Robyn Stacey produced intimate still life’s from the collections of historic houses with the feeling that their inhabitants would soon return to pick up where they had left off along with the modern aesthetic reproduction of rare specimens from botanical garden collections.

This interest in the historical has influenced her current body of work that juxtaposes exterior city scenes with the interiors of modern life through the application of the centuries old technique of the camera obscura.

Pioneered by the Chinese and the ancient Greeks more than a thousand years ago and extensively used by Renaissance artists, Stacey has used this pinhole technique to make hotel rooms of the 21st Century her darkroom.

The idea came to Stacey whilst she was artist in residence at Melbourne’s Sofitel on Collins hotel.
As she told the Sydney Morning Herald’s Katrina Lobley “''There was a fantastic sunrise over Melbourne. I jumped out of bed and thought, 'I should photograph this - it's just like a postcard'. Later, I realized I should make a camera obscura to bring the view into the room.”

Intrigued by the surreal vision of city traffic crawling across the walls and ceiling of the room, albeit upside down, Stacey soon realized that as ''Hotels only exist to service people” she needed to add people into the mix.

The result is a body of work in which the city almost becomes a thought bubble above the subjects head, an examination of the relationship of the individual to world in which they reside.

Not unlike her earlier historical still lifes about which the critic and curator Peter Timms wrote in his essay Playing a Double Game “As in the cinema (and these photographs are nothing if not cinematic) we are being invited to suspend our disbelief and imagine ourselves in another time, not for nostalgia’s sake, but for the opposite – to strip away sentiment and to see ourselves more clearly.”

Stacey’s current exhibition Cloudland is on show at the Museum of Brisbane until the 3rd of April next year.

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