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