Announcing MGA's new commissioning exhibition STAGES: photography through the pandemic

Art Announcement from Australia. Published by Monash Gallery of Art on Tuesday 07 July 2020.

Announcing MGA's new commissioning exhibition STAGES: photography through the pandemic image Announcing MGA's new commissioning exhibition STAGES: photography through the pandemic image Announcing MGA's new commissioning exhibition STAGES: photography through the pandemic image

Responding to the unprecedented social, environmental and economic impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic on Australian artists and society at large, Monash Gallery of Art has commissioned five artist projects.

Photographers image the spaces between us, whether physical or psychological, be it through portraits or landscapes, within the domestic sphere or the public realm. The significance of work and leisure routines and the liberty of everyday behaviours we take for granted is never better understood than when the right and ability to do them is taken away.

The STAGES commission enables MGA to provide financial support directly to practicing artists at a time of great need for the arts sector in Australia. As the health situation changes, the economic imperatives remain. MGA invited 30 recognised photography directors, curators, writers, educators and producers to each nominate an artist working with photography to be shortlisted for the STAGES commission. Each nominated artist was invited to submit a project proposal. From this shortlist, five projects were selected by MGA’s curatorial team.

STAGES: photography through the pandemic will see Jane Burton, Cherine Fahd, Phuong Ngo, Van Sowerine + Isobel Knowles, and James Tylor respond creatively to the unprecedented social, environmental and economic impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The resulting bodies of work will feature in online and gallery-based exhibition outcomes as part of MGA’s Luminaries exhibition series in 2021. A selection of the commissioned works will also join the MGA Collection to contribute to the cultural record of this time.

We’re pleased to introduce the first of the commissioned artists

Artist profile: Cherine Fahd

Nominated by:
Naomi Cass
Director, Castlemaine Art Museum

Nominator’s statement:

Cherine Fahd is used to being in a tight spot. Well, it seems so from her work, at least. This quality is apposite when commissioning photography during this period of social isolation. By ‘a tight spot’ I mean Fahd is hugely adept, not only in conceiving tightly formed concepts for her series which she executes in disciplined, thrilling ways, but that she often subjects her sitters to physically or psychologically confined spaces.

I am thinking of her early series The Chosen (2000-2003)—part of a larger body of work entitled Candid—in which she photographed people cooling themselves under a public fountain during a heatwave, and from a distance. Framed by massive flagstones, delight and relief is tightly confined within the frame. Almost life size, Fahd created an inviting, albeit illicit lozenge in which we the viewer share in this delight.

Whilst confined at home with small children Fahd created a suitably claustrophobic framework for her series Hiding self portraits (2009-2010). Then in 2013 she made a beautiful series of almost abstract, self portraits in Camouflage, where she photographed slivers of herself beneath, crammed into, sequestered behind, poking through large sheets of coloured paper. Such tight conceptual and physical frameworks are not confined to self portraiture, but inform other highly regarded series where she photographs invited subjects to sit within particular constraints, such as Shadowing Portraits (2014-2016). And not to speak of series where Fahd digitally inserts her own eyes within tightly selected vernacular photographs such as, National types of beauty (2017) and I was half French (2018).

I can hardly wait to see what Fahd creates during this pandemic.

- Naomi Cass

Artist’s practice statement:

Describing my practice is never easy. Each project appears stylistically discrete, responding directly to an idea or an urge. However, what is certain is that I am drawn to working with other people and to a way of image making that generates and encourages intimacy.

I have found there is no other photographic process more intimate than the making of someone’s portrait. My practice is founded upon this knowledge; the understanding that when we face the camera, we offer ourselves to the other, to the photographer and the future audience, to be seen, taken in, looked at and measured.

My practice performs photography. What I mean by this, is that I am as much fascinated by the interpersonal and relational processes behind-the-scenes, as I am in the final image. In this way, my version of photography is closely linked to performance. To pose for the camera is to perform for it.

I am motivated to make images that are driven by socio-political and cultural concerns: how we relate to ourselves and others, how we experience ourselves in the world with others, how we inhabit this world collectively and how our lives and relations are mediated by photography.

Finally, I am becoming more and more interested in how photographer can bring us together, an interest which drives my proposed project.

- Cherine Fahd