Peta Houghton

The Baggage Room

March 5 - March 19 2011

As fitful and fragile as memories hovering at the brink of consciousness, Peta Houghton's pictorial markings reveal an inner world that is at once intensely personal and universal. Adrift in the Baggage Room of time she unlocks that which was lost, left behind or hidden away in waking life. Houghton describes the works as, "An all-encompassing and ongoing autobiographical project that while being an honest attempt at truthfulness, has occasionally resulted in the most elaborate of deceptions."

Lost luggage lying forgotten in dusty rooms and the fractured tales they might contain inspired the exhibition's title. Images of suitcases resonate with symbolic import for they pertain to secrets and aspects of identity that are concealed or repressed. Houghton courageously opens lids and peers inside. Like the contents of an innocuous Pandora's Box, archetypal images scatter across paper, canvas and vintage sheeting in a bid for reclamation. She defines her works as incomplete visual narratives that explore art's potential in making sense of the disjointed, internal demands of the psyche: "The stories are embedded in the subconscious mind and are broken into fragments as though they are pieces of a puzzle that never quite fit together."

Themes of isolation contend with those of comfort and security throughout the works. Houses completely surrounded by fences without gates and things encircled by chains represent restrictions imposed by self or circumstance, while the floating single beds signify a yearning for sanctuary and a return to the safety felt in childhood days. The trees are the people in Houghton's life.

Notions of the Self's dualities manifest in the recurring motif of the ballerina in a black tutu, which is perhaps not surprising given that Houghton once studied ballet for many years. Redolent of Manga and other Japanese Anime characters, the ballerina's little girl-like like persona and round limpid eyes belie a far darker experience of the world. Similarly, the omnipresent cat (Houghton owns three) may signify a subterranean, wily and sensual nature - one that is quite capable of self-sufficiency and creative expression.

Symbols operate on many different levels: the universal and the particular, intellectual and emotional, spiritual and temporal. They are keys to understanding the collective unconscious and in this sense Houghton has titled her works in the third person so as to distance herself from the subjective content and allow the viewer to integrate his or her own stories into the imagery.

Musing on the visual outcome of her interior investigations, Houghton concludes, "The images appear like preliminary exercises for subsequent works. A combination of naivety, vulnerability and defiance, the application of paint and drawing media mirrors the effects of the unravelling and building of a life. It's kind of nice but not - all at the same time. I like to think of it as being in a Snow Dome, which incidentally, I collect."

Born and raised in Sydney, Peta Houghton has travelled extensively throughout the USA, Western Europe, Northern Africa and the UK where she spent three years in London. She now resides on the Gold Coast - a place she visited frequently as a child. She completed a Bachelor of Fine Art, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Brisbane in 2009 Majoring in Painting with Elective Majors in Drawing and Art Theory. Houghton was awarded Academic Excellence in 2008 and 2009. The Baggage Room is her first exhibition in a commercial galley and has another scheduled for June at the East West Gallery in Beijing.


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