Samantha Everton


March 26 - April 9 2011

There has always been something unsettling and yet strangely familiar about Samantha Everton's imagery. It lures us in and holds us spellbound as we ponder the source of our curious fascination. Anthea Polson Art is indeed privileged to host the national launch of Marionettes, Everton's latest series of photographic art. As with previous series, Utopia, Vintage Dolls, Childhood Fears and Catharsis, the new body of work accesses realms of the uncanny that Everton calls "magic realism". Marionettes extends her visual exploration of interior states of being, but here the focus has shifted from that of the child's, to ‘grown-up' issues of isolation and loss of control under the pressures of daily life.

The works show women caught in moments of silent implosion. It seems the constraints of routine domesticity and the overwhelming pace and rigours of modern existence have reached a crisis point! Some form of catharsis must inevitably ensue. The artificially lit, compressed spaces and livid, lurid colours heighten the psychological tension while closed, curtained windows negate any possibility of relief entering from the outside world. In the image Blue Day a woman hangs as if catatonically from the picture-rail in her bedroom. Similarly caged and ‘coloured', a little kingfisher observes helplessly. A dominant blue door lies open, or is it closing? Quite literally ‘driven up the wall', the woman in Chameleon clings lizard-like to the wall along side a framed print of a galleon tossed in stormy seas. A sallow burnished light streams across the floor to illuminate a perfectly iced, pink birthday cake - its four candles flare unwaveringly in the airless room.

Yet another culinary creation features in the work Birthday Wish. A well-dressed, white-stockinged young lady stands at a little wooden table, arms dangling listlessly and face plonked into her ill-fated masterpiece. Perched on the chair opposite, a commanding white swan looks on with incredulity. Upon the mantle-piece a set of rotund porcelain canisters appear to preside over the scene with uppity distain. The image Moc presents quite a different response to life's pressures. Here we can actually see the woman's face - her hair billows freely and her costume is brightly patterned. Hands clutch the open door but is she flying towards freedom or being swept back into the strictures of her domestic role? The pelican in the adjoining room mirrors her predicament as it attempts to fly through a thoroughly unnatural domain.

Although the Marionettes scenarios illuminate women's sociological and psychological isolation, they also hint at something extraordinary in their ‘outsider' status. Whilst illustrating important and weighty themes, the images are made accessible to all by a pervading sense of situational comedy. The omnipresence of birds, both native and introduced, has symbolic import. They intensify the surrealism of the narrative and provide a unifying element to the body of work. "I love surrealism," Everton explains, "Dali, Escher - pictures where there's something extra if you look a little closer."

Many months in the making, the Marionette series sees Everton again going to quite extraordinary lengths in sourcing exactly the right characters, props, costumes and house for the images. This time she found her house in Brunswick and rented it for a month. " I was told the previous tenant was a WWII veteran now in his 90's who had lived alone, although there was presence of a past life in feminine trinkets and hand-sewn curtains," says Everton. "The place had been left unoccupied for some time and he seemed to have left quite unexpectedly as the furniture and fittings were all intact, and some of his clothes were still hanging in the wardrobe. Even the bed was made-up! "

Everton works primarily as a director, creating elaborate theatrical productions and the photographing them. True to the realism of her work, she captures the images on traditional film using a medium format camera: "It is very important to me that the viewer believes in the image, therefore everything you see, from the girl flying through the air to each individual bird, was actually there in front of the camera. Everton is reluctant to explain the narrative content and underlying symbolism in the works, preferring that the viewer respond from a personal perspective. "My images are a snapshot, mid-moment, they don't begin or end," she explains. "It leaves you to your own imagination, to draw your own conclusions."

Everton has an innate ability to access the subliminal in sumptuous visual narratives of cross-cultural, sociological and psychological relevance. That talent together with the unerring integrity of her photographic processes has been well celebrated and awarded over the past seven years. Most recently, she gained international recognition when she achieved 1st Place in the Portrait category, 3rd Place in the Fine Art category and an Honourable Mention at the prestigious Prix de la Photographie Paris (Px3) 2010.


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