Samantha Everton

Survey Exhibition 2003 to 2018

July 27 - August 10 2019

The exhibition celebrates Melbourne-based Samantha Everton's 13 years of internationally recognised and multi-awarded photographic art making. The six series of works each visually explores the ‘straddling of dual worlds' in a quest for self-identity and transcendence amidst cultural variances. Everton divulges she only subsequently realised that the scenarios and the characters inhabiting them had ‘grown up' or evolved over the years, finding culmination and resolution in her most recent series, Indochine.

With socio-historical relevance, Indochine presents as a series of portraits depicting an oriental woman caught between the cultural values and expectations of her particular time and a personal struggle towards individuation. She is variously posed against flat but sumptuously decorated backdrops. Their ornamental 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 epitomises this notion. Strict codes of dress denoting social stature governed the 16th century Elizabethan era. Despite the constricting neck ruff and flamboyant coiffure, the subject is the antithesis 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 an adherence to that ideal or conversely, a wilful rejection. Slashes of rouge directing one's attention to the scarlet pouting lips perhaps suggest the latter.

Although the least embellished, Truong Son is a pivotal image for Everton. Not only is it the final portrait in the Indochine series, it characterises a contemporary female who appears at complete ease with herself. The woman's head tilts to the side, a lock of pink hair brushes her face. With a direct gaze and nonchalant posture, she negates any censure in a languid exhalation of cigarette smoke.

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 opposite colours of the red and green gowns emphasise the underlying antipathy. It seems that the bridging of cultural disparities will only be achieved in a cathartic moment of realisation and subsequent mutual acceptance.

Delving into more sombre aspects of the subliminal, the 2007 Childhood Fears series considers the vicissitudes of adolescence. Fantasy and reality entwine in dark deserted streets and ‘retro' interiors suffused in a greenish, aqueous light. The odd stillness of the scenes intensifies the suspense of possible outcomes. 'This series is about being at an age when you are very much aware of your environment and how different you are from other people,' says Everton. 'The imagery is my interpretation of those places where our innermost childhood thoughts, emotions and fears are played out. They are universal, often not rationally understood or easily articulated, but intrinsically connect us all in one common thread.'

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. Artificially lit compressed spaces and livid colours heighten the psychological tension. Closed curtained windows negate any possibility of relief entering from the outside world. Although the Marionettes imagery elucidates women's sociological and psychological isolation, it also hints at something extraordinary in their ‘outsider' status. 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.

The title of the 2014, Sang Tong series translates as ‘the golden shell' and comes from an ancient Thai folktale. It is about a boy named Sang Tong who emerges triumphant and ‘golden' from disquieting conditions. The story has a direct relevance to the subjects in this body of work for the children featured are Thai adoptees who, like Sang Tong, have attained ‘radiance' in a changing of circumstance. There is a sense of holding time in timelessness as a hyper-real version of each child's sense of self is manifested.

The recurring cross-cultural theme underpinning much of Everton's oeuvre has been indirectly influenced by her own familial experience. Image potency accrues from her keen awareness of the vacillations that attend the process towards individualism and integration. However, it is Everton's hope that the viewer responds from a personal perspective. 'My images are mid-moment snapshots,' she explains. 'They don't begin or end, leaving you to your own imagination, to draw your own conclusions.'


» Back to previous page