Sharon Green, Red Lounge (2003). Edition 10/10. Maitland Regional Art Gallery Collection. On display. For several months in 2009, Sharon Green lived with 80 live beetles in her small London flat while she filmed them for her moving image work Circulus Vituoso.
When I speak to Green, she admits that she is “a bit obsessed with beetles”. While living with them, she says “I just let them walk around and I just let them copulate. I was plucking them off the curtains in the morning.” She believes beetles are captivating and have the ability to both repel and entice. She also considers them a fascinating metaphor.
“The beauty of the beetle is enticing, but they are scavenger creatures, they go after rotting flesh and decomposing wood and fruit, and socially we are conditioned not to be captivated by such a repulsive creature,” she states. “It’s like having a tug of war with yourself, being drawn in and repelled at once. I like it when we find pleasure in the abject, and enjoy things we’re not supposed to.”
Green says her beetle obsession started with Red Lounge, a photograph that feeds on fantasy, fetish and ambiguity. In it, the woman is faceless and seemingly vulnerable, with four beetles crawling towards her splayed legs. As in many surrealist images, the body is cropped to reveal something strange or disturbing. And as in a horror movie, the viewer is left with a sense of unease about what comes next.
Red Lounge is indicative of much of Green’s work, which explores an erotic and dangerous realm. Influenced by the baroque period, her high-gloss photographs often reference elaborate ornamentation, sex and death.
Green, born in 1977 in Sydney, started learning about photography at high school when she was 13. “I quite quickly knew it was what I wanted to do with my life,” she says. “I found the darkroom hypnotic, a place of solace, and it also provided a good hiding place for skipping lessons. I was, and still am, in love with the old-fashioned alchemy of photography. It never loses its magic.”
After completing her undergraduate studies in Brisbane, Green moved to London in 2007, where she was accepted into the Royal College of Art for a masters in photography. She moved back to Brisbane in 2009.
Red Lounge is on display at the Maitland Regional Art Gallery in NSW’s Hunter Valley. On a visit, I am shown the work by collection management curator Cheryl Farrell and former cultural director Joseph Eisenberg, who tell me the work was donated by one of the gallery’s patrons, Patrick Corrigan.
Eisenberg says the photograph, with its dark imagery, is an excellent example of Green’s artistic practice. “You are really wondering what is happening. Is the body alive? Is it dead? There is this juxtaposition of how the feet are, the way you can’t see the body at all, and those wretched insects,” he says.
Farrell describes Red Lounge as a beautiful, luscious image. “I love the darkness of it, the intrigue,” she says. “It’s dangerous, it’s something mysterious and maybe something horrible. You can just stand in front of it and make up a story by yourself. It grabs you straight away. You put this up on the wall and people can’t walk past it.”
Cibachrome photograph; 91cm x 91cm