Robyn Stacey’s large and lustrous photographs restage the collections of former generations. Among her subjects are the gardens and collections of Alexander Macleay, appointed as colonial secretary of New South Wales in 1826. The Macleay collections of bulbous plants, which proliferated in the now lost botanic gardens at Elizabeth Bay House in Sydney, provided Stacey with the inspiration for Bombe (cape bulbs) 2009. The title of the work (Bombe) refers to the baroque styled vase, which rests on an example of Australian red cedar furniture from around 1820. Stacey revives the tradition of still life, a genre of painting that was at the height of its powers and popularity in seventeenth century Holland. The presence of fruit, flowers and often insects communicated the brevity of life and the inevitability of death in these vanitas paintings from the past – Stacey consciously reworks these traditions in her practice.
“If there is nothing from the first, where does the dust collect itself?” Hui-neng
My body of work is an exploration of the cycle of life. I was interested in the way the human life never ends and through death we give rise to another cycle. Through my work I also wanted to express the impact of nature providing various intersecting cycles which add to the complexity of the human life. Artists such as Bill Viola and Bill Henson inspired my work through their highly emotive artworks that emphasise the intensity of a black background illuminating and engulfing the subjects in an eerie atmosphere. My work attempts to replicate these features through my choice of digital camera equipment and Photoshop manipulation which has allowed for heightened shadows in the chiaroscuro style - a main feature of the Vanitas tradition, another major influence to my work. The title of my work is a reference to the work created by Xu bing which used the dust he collected in Chinatown (Manhattan) after 9/11.
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