Saturday, November 26, 2005

Road kill still life

I went to see an exhibition of new photographic work by Marian Drew at a gallery in Fitzroy this afternoon. I found her work stunning!

She had collected roadkill – Australian animals, including birds – and assembled them into striking tableaux that immediately evoked the still lives of the European masters, especially the Dutch. Her settings were sparce, with fruit, singular pieces of patterned, old crockery, kitchen implements and other food accompanying a dead animal on a table laid with a lovely embroided tablecloth (as you can see from the example).

She produced massive digital prints on etching paper, and the colour, shadow and light, detail and depth were quite amazing. Some images left me feeling that I could extend my hand right through the paper into the scene and touch the dead animal. If I could bring myself to do so.

If Marian Drew wanted her viewers to shudder at the starkness of dead animals, to flinch, almost, at seeing the wide-open, bright, staring, but unseeing eyes of these dead animals, then she succeeded with me. I loved the references to European still lifes, and found it engaging yet disturbing to see Australian animals, both familiar and not. Our fauna is so lovely, yet so precious – it's painful to think so many are sacrificed at the altars of 'civilization'.

If you're in Melbourne, you can catch her exhibition at Dianne Tanzer Gallery in Fitzroy (see the link to Marian Drew). Oh, and do check out the short documentary about how Marian Drew put together this work. It's compelling viewing too.


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