Samantha Everton at Tedder Avenue

2005 to 2018

October 17 to October 31 2020

As an introduction to the new Tedder Avenue gallery, Anthea Polson Art presents a selection of limited-edition photographic artworks by the multi-awarded Samantha Everton. The unerring integrity of her photographic processes and an innate ability to access the subliminal in sumptuous visual narratives has won significant international acclaim for the Melbourne-based artist. Numerous series of works spanning 13 years have visually explored subjects 'straddling dual worlds' in a quest for self-identity and transcendence amidst cultural variances.

The 2005 Catharsis series marks the beginning of elaborate photographic productions that evoke what Everton refers to as ‘magic realism'. 'The creation of the sets and lighting considerations were to the degree of making a small film in their complexity,' she recalls. Staged in barely illuminated, regally furnished rooms, the narratives reveal a rather frosty, cross-cultural interplay between an oriental and occidental woman. The Unreachable work features the women's arms positioned either side of a plush, throne-like chair. The opposite colours of their red and green gowns emphasise an underlying enmity.

Delving into aspects of the subconscious, the 2007 Childhood Fears series considers the vicissitudes of adolescence. 'The imagery is my interpretation of those places where our innermost childhood thoughts, emotions and fears are played out,' Everton imparts. In the Holding On image, a barefooted teenage girl sits, head bowed and alone, at her birthday party table. The ‘retro' interior is suffused in a greenish, aqueous light that intensifies the pathos. The natural world beyond lies obscured behind a filmy curtain.

The antithesis of Everton's characteristic, highly choreographed works is the 2008 Utopia series. Filmed below the icy waters of Victoria's Point Lonsdale, there could be no orchestration of props or predetermined outcome in this situation! Wearing a wetsuit, Everton captured the flailing of a woman suddenly finding herself at the mercy of the ocean's powerful currents. Metaphorically immersed in the great unknown, the simple petticoat attire reflects her vulnerability.

Eighteen months in the making, the 2009 Vintage Dolls series is set in a shadowy world betwixt dreams and waking. It features a cast of five beautifully attired young girls entertaining themselves in an abandoned house. Everton had discovered a building about to be demolished and was able to meticulously create the set for this shoot. 'The house had a ghostly feeling and evinced remnants of a past life that juxtaposed the playfulness of the children,' comments Everton. 'It's like the girls are play-acting up in an attic, but on a deeper level, I wished to show how children interact with culture; how they absorb and re-enact what they see. I wanted there to be a child with whom each person could identify.'

Extending her ongoing visual exploration of interior states of being, the 2011 Marionettes series shows women caught in moments of silent implosion. It seems the constraints of routine domesticity have reached a crisis point! Artificially lit, compressed spaces and livid colours heighten the psychological tension. Closed, curtained windows negate any possibility of relief entering from the outside world. The omnipresence of birds - both native and introduced - amplifies the surrealism and provides a unifying element to the body of work. Whilst illustrating weighty themes, the images are made accessible by a pervading sense of situational comedy.

Everton's most recent 2018 Indochine series explores the repercussions attendant in the meeting of Eastern and Western traditions - a confluence that began with the incursion of 16th century European trading companies into Asia's exotic lands. A socio-historical relevance invests the Indochine body of work. It consists of a series of portraits depicting an oriental woman caught between the cultural the values and expectations of her particular time, and a personal struggle towards individuation. Contrary to her previous series that were set in surrealistic three-dimensional spaces, Indochine renders the subjects variously posed against flat, intensely ornate backdrops. Their decorative intricacies offer clues to the underlying stories. The costumes too, are integral emblematic factors imparting Everton's observations of how fashion throughout history has been a signifier of female identity.

Abounding in anomalies, the Alabaster image exemplifies this notion. Strict codes of dress denoting social stature governed the Elizabethan era. Despite the constricting neck ruff and flamboyant coiffure, the woman here is hardly the epitome of Elizabethan mores. An albino-like vision in diaphanous white, she appears quite indifferent to her exposed nakedness. Symbolic of purity and loyalty, the strand of pearls dangling from an outstretched hand may indicate a wilful rejection of that ideal - slashes of rouge directing one's attention to the scarlet pouting lips perhaps confirming such.

An air of wistful nobility pervades the Xiao Majia portrait. Haloed against an inky entanglement of white orchid-strewn foliage, the woman's attitude is meditative, her hands gently clasped. She is adorned in a crown of black roses. It is a work imbued in symbolism. Coloured orchids in Chinese lore denote springtime and often festoon wedding and religious ceremonies. White orchids, however, have a more sombre significance, as do black roses. Both portend farewells and endings, but as such, they also herald rebirth or the beginnings of something new. The dragon embroidered upon the model's breastplate is an archetypal symbol of transformation. In China, the dragon was considered an auspicious creature that bestowed the perseverance to overcome any obstacle.

Captured with a medium format camera, Everton's photographic images illuminate the concealed realms. They evince the vacillations between fragility and adaptability, vulnerability and resilience, compliance and resolute self-expression. Everton divulges it was only subsequently that she realised the scenarios and characters inhabiting her various series had ‘grown up' or evolved over the years. In viewing the collection of works, one does experience a sense of crossing into a resonant intimacy where past, present and future are gathered.

JACQUELINE HOUGHTON


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