‘In the Flesh’ examines the body as a site of self-assertion and empowerment, with works ranging from performance, painting, photography, sculpture and video. The artists included in the exhibition ‘ Looking Out, Looking In’ at the Queensland Art Gallery until 6 August 2023 reveal cultural shifts and universal themes.
Explore the subject of the self-portrait in our blog series as artists question the concept of an unchanging identity and the validity of gender-based stereotypes.
DELVE DEEPER: Introducting the self-portrait
RELATED: Explore the self-portrait — a distinct form of portraiture Julie Rrap
Julie Rrap, Australia b.1950 / Puberty (from ‘Persona and shadow’ series) 1984, printed 1991 / Cibachrome photograph on paper / 198 x 122.2cm / Purchased 1991 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
In this large-scale photograph Julie Rrap recasts renowned Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s painting Puberty 1894–95 — made a century earlier — to contest the trope of the male artist and his female muse, and the primacy of painting over photography. The artwork is one of nine that Rrap began in the 1980s after she travelled to Europe, where Munch’s work was attracting renewed interest. Disquieted by Munch’s depictions of women and confounded by the dearth of women artists included in European exhibitions of contemporary art, she restaged his paintings using herself as subject, photographing, collaging and hand-colouring the images before rephotographing them. While assuming the same pose as the vulnerable young woman in Munch’s painting, Rrap regards the viewer with a direct gaze in an overt challenge to age-old stereotypes. Stelarc
Stelarc, Australia/Japan b.1946 / Sitting/swaying: event for rock suspension (Tokyo, Japan, 1980) (from ‘Suspensions’ portfolio) 1990-91 / Photo-etching taken from documentary photograph on BFK Rives paper / 52.5 x 63.5cm / Purchased 1993. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Stelarc Performance artist Stelarc has been engaged in various investigations of the body, the most well-known and dramatic of which are his body suspensions. Performed in various sites and situations around the world – including Japan, USA, Germany and Australia – Stelarc pierces his skin with hooks attached to load-bearing strings to suspend his body in different positions. Not all the performances have been static; his body has swung, spun, swayed and propelled itself. In some instances, Stelarc incorporated the amplified sounds of his heart beating and muscles stretching. In these documented performances, Stelarc explored what it means to be human, examining how the body is the site of human experience in a changing world affected by new technologies.
Tyza Hart, Australia b.1990 / Untitled 2015 / Oil on panel / 122 x 61cm / Gift of Alex and Kitty Mackay through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation 2020. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Courtesy the artist and Darren Knight Gallery Tyza Hart works in a range of mediums, manipulating depictions of themself as a means of self-exploration, and to challenge common perceptions of gender and sex. Hart explains that their self-portraits are:
. . . driven by a childhood desire to be perceived as male. Resulting self-portraits – typically comprised of a characteristically male body and my face – depict ambiguously gendered selves. I explore transgender identity through this continual self-portraiture, which is politicised by my public failure to conform to gender norms when the works are exhibited. By resisting and engaging with popular understandings of transsexual narratives, I aim to highlight some alternatives to the strict binary understandings of gender.
‘Looking Out, Looking In: Exploring the Self-Portrait’ / Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery 4 / 11 March – 6 August 2023