Parody is the overarching theme of ‘Role play’ in ‘ Looking Out, Looking In’ at the Queensland Art Gallery until 6 August 2023. The exhibition includes artworks that contest the notion of individuality, and the idea that a self-portrait can somehow be indicative of a unique and cohesive identity.
Explore the subject of the self-portrait in our blog series, a dynamic and longstanding artistic tradition linked to the human desire to picture and comprehend ourselves.
DELVE DEEPER: Introducting the self-portrait
RELATED: Explore the self-portrait — a distinct form of portraiture Yasumasa Morimura
Yasumasa Morimura, Japan b.1951 / Blinded by the light 1991 / Type C photograph with surface varnish on paper on plywood in gold frame / Triptych: 200 x 383cm (overall, framed); 200 x 121cm (each panel) / Purchased 1996 with proceeds from the Brisbane BMW Renaissance Ball through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation. Celebrating the Queensland Art Gallery’s Centenary 1895-1995 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Yasumasa Morimura
Contemporary Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura is renowned for photographs in which he reconfigures paintings from Western art history, placing himself in a ‘starring’ role within the compositions. In doing so, he critiques these traditions, the perceived ‘truth’ or authenticity of photographs, and the fluctuating nature of identity and gender.
In Blinded by the light 1991 (illustrated), Morimura adopts various roles, superimposing the images over a background borrowed from Dutch painter Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s 1568. Each of the protagonists in Morimura’s photograph is blinded or masked and restricted by their personal paraphernalia. For example, the ‘baby’ is weighed down by its lacy dress; the ‘artist’ by the tools of his trade; and the ‘shopper’ by her jewellery and carry bags, one labelled ‘MORIMURA’. In this sense, Morimura’s photograph is a self-referential parody of the artist as an identifiable ‘personality’ – and a reflection of the multiple personas that we each assume. The parable of the blind Cindy Sherman
Cindy Sherman, United States b. 1954 / Untitled 2007–08 / Colour photograph mounted on aluminium / 158.6 x 177.8cm / Purchased 2011 with funds from Tim Fairfax AM through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Cindy Sherman
Cindy Sherman (Photographer), United States b.1954 / ANCIENNE MANUFACTURE ROYALE (LIMOGES) (Manufacturer), France est. 1736 / Madame de Pompadour née Poisson (1721‑1764) 1989 / Hard‑paste porcelain modelled after a Sèvres original, with Rose Pompadour ground colour, silver details and transferred photograph. Interior of tureen transfer printed, ed. 25/72 / Tureen: 17 x 38 x 30cm; lid: 9 x 28.5 x 21cm; stand: 7 x 55.5 x 35cm; 31 x 55.5 x 35cm (complete) / Purchased 1990 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Cindy Sherman
In the 1970s, American photographer Cindy Sherman created a series of fabricated ‘film stills’ in which she adopted the trappings of femininity to highlight their role in the construction of ‘persona’. Made against the backdrop of second-wave feminism and other socially progressive theories, the artworks foregrounded the stereotypical nature of traditional portraiture, and eroded the idea of a unique, cohesive identity.
Since then, Sherman has continued to interrogate and parody the genre, producing increasingly complex staged photographs such as Untitled 2007–08 (illustrated), as well as the tureen Madame de Pompadour née Poisson (1721‑1764) 1989 (illustrated), made as part of a table service manufactured to her specifications by the historic Limoges factory in France. The dish sees Sherman in the central cartouche assuming the part of the legendary mistress of Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour, known for her elaborate dress and hairstyles. Replacing the hand-painted image of the doyenne with a screen print of herself in more modest attire, Sherman satirises the conferral of prestige based on appearance. Abdul Abdullah
Abdul Abdullah, Australia b.1986 / Someone else’s king and someone else’s country 2014 / Type C photograph on lustre paper, mounted on aluminium, A.P. 1/2 (ed. of 5) / 180 x 100cm / Gift of an anonymous donor 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 / © Abdul Abdullah
Abdul Abdullah is renowned for portraits that depict subjects who have been ostracised by society in some way. Much of his work draws upon his own experiences of harassment as a Muslim man living in Australia. The self-portrait
Someone else’s king and someone else’s country 2014 (illustrated) is part of a series of photographs entitled ‘Siege’, which allude to the ‘siege mentality’ that he has felt in having to defend himself against Islamophobia. The artwork, in which he adopts the persona being projected on to him, references the vilification that many Muslim people endured following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the USA and the ensuing ‘War on Terror’. Reflecting on the series, Abdullah has explained: ‘I wanted to examine the position of the marginalised, supposedly “radical” Muslim “other”, a politicised identity formed in the contemporary West.’
‘Looking Out, Looking In: Exploring the Self-Portrait’ / Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery 4 / 11 March – 6 August 2023