Pub­lic works

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts - Bron­wyn Wat­son

Pat Brass­ing­ton, To­pog­ra­phy in Pink from the se­ries You’re So Vein, 2005. Col­lec­tion Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art. Pur­chased 2005. On dis­play in To­day, To­mor­row, Yes­ter­day, MCA, Syd­ney, un­til May 22. For nearly 40 years Pat Brass­ing­ton has en­ticed the imag­i­na­tion with images that aren’t ex­actly pretty: phal­lic pink tongues, mon­strous splayed legs, a child’s mouth bound with tape, vulva-like slits, scaly feet, or but­tocks turned into an erect pe­nis.

Brass­ing­ton is one of Aus­tralia’s fore­most con­tem­po­rary photo-based artists. She blurs the bound­ary be­tween the real and the imag­ined by tak­ing the fa­mil­iar and mak­ing it un­fa­mil­iar. She man­ages to achieve this by us­ing re­cur­rent mo­tifs and an ar­ray of odd cam­era an­gles that dis­tort, fore­shorten and often home in on the mis­shapen body parts of the crotch, the feet, the mouth, or legs — all of which are de­void of any iden­tity.

Born in Ho­bart in 1942, Brass­ing­ton stud­ied photography and print­mak­ing at the Tas­ma­nian School of Art as a ma­ture-aged student. Ini­tially she worked in black-and-white, often us­ing col­lage and found images.

How­ever, from the late 1990s she be­gan to con­cen­trate on colour and dig­i­tal ma­nip­u­la­tion. She was one of the first to re­alise the cre­ative pos­si­bil­i­ties of this tech­nique.

Her in­flu­ences are nu­mer­ous, in­clud­ing sur­re­al­ism, psy­cho­anal­y­sis, fem­i­nism, fam­ily and friends, life ex­pe­ri­ence, the nat­u­ral world, and cin­ema.

Of those in­flu­ences she once said: “I have long been in­ter­ested in psy­cho­anal­y­sis and have been in­trigued also by strate­gies used by some sur­re­al­ists. If I add these to my own life ex­pe­ri­ence I come as close as I can to pro­vid­ing a ra­tio­nale for my images of fan­tasy.”

Be­sides the enig­matic na­ture of her im­agery, she is also known for her use of the colour pink. She has said, how­ever, that it is not her in­ten­tion to fem­i­nise the im­age by us­ing pink.

“It’s nas­tier than that,” she says, smoth­ers.”

Four of Brass­ing­ton’s images from her 2005 se­ries You’re So Vein are on dis­play at Syd­ney’s Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art in the ex­hi­bi­tion To­day, To­mor­row, Yes­ter­day.

As the show’s se­nior cu­ra­tor, Natasha Bull- “pink ock, and I stand be­fore the works, we ex­am­ine Crush, The Wed­ding Guest and Rocket, but fo­cus on To­pog­ra­phy in Pink, with its pale pink and white striped leg­gings and splayed legs.

Brass­ing­ton’s ti­tles are often hu­mor­ous and puns. Bul­lock says that for the artist, the ti­tle is “re­ally im­por­tant”, and in­vites di­verse in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

“The ti­tles make the works riff off in other di­rec­tions so there is al­ways what has been de­scribed as a bomb in her work,” she says.

“Pat doesn’t like to give a lot away. She likes to leave it open to the imag­i­na­tion and to your in­ter­pre­ta­tion. There are lots of ways it can be in­ter­preted, and that is the beauty of her work.”

Bul­lock de­scribes Brass­ing­ton as a “salt-ofthe-earth woman who spends all her time mak­ing these un­canny and other-worldly com­po­si­tions”.

Fur­ther­more, she ex­plains that sur­re­al­ism in­forms the work, and this is demon­strated in the sex­ual and at times eroti­cised sub­ject mat­ter: “Un­der­scored with sex­u­al­ity, some of these

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