Library

  • Identifying Elvis (and a host of others): the work of Polixeni Papapetrou

    Honouring Life, October 2, 2017

    Polixeni Papapetrou is a Melbourne-based photographic artist who has various connections to Melbourne General Cemetery. Papapetrou’s talent weaves a body of work that ranges from intimate black and white portraiture, to dramatic outdoor scenes and fantastical imaginary sets of riotous colours. I was privileged to gain an insight into Papapetrou’s creative world, and learn that regardless of subject matter, identity remains key in every piece. Here she spends time discussing her passion for identity, why Melbourne General Cemetery has such a special significance, and how she captured a portrait of former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser in just the right light, to create just the right moment.

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  • 2017 WALL POWER catalogue

    The exhibition title WALL POWER says it all. I could imagine it being a banner in a 1970s’ street photograph. It points literally to the polished and dramatic quality of these exhibited works, and metaphorically to the importance of the gallery wall as a physical experience for viewing and contemplating art.
  • 2014 Melancholia catalogue

    Melancholia (2014) represents an exploration of a time in my life when sadness and grief were hanging over me and I was searching for a way to express it. Diagnosed with advanced metastatic cancer in November 2012 and already facing organ-failure, the only treatment that could be offered at the time was palliative pain relief. It was a devastating time as I was preparing to farewell my family and coming to terms with letting go of my identity and work as an artist, my friendships, my home and this world. I was preparing for another type of world, that of the unknown.
  • 2014 Papapetrou Lost Psyche catalogue

    POLIXENI PAPAPETROU was born in Melbourne in the 1960s to Greek immigrants. Her childhood experience of feeling as an outsider in a then predominantly Anglo Saxon culture led her to question definitions of identity. Her sympathy for otherness remains a key element of her life and work. As a photomedia artist her images explore the relationship between history, contemporary culture and identity. Since 2002 she has photographed children dressing up, performing and wearing masks as a way of exploring the portrayal of childhood identity. Her work includes Elvis Immortal (1987-2002), Curated Bodies (1996), Searching for Marilyn (2002), Phantomwise (2002), Dreamchild (2003), Wonderland (2004), Haunted Country (2006), Games of Consequence (2008), Between Worlds (2009-2012), The Dreamkeepers (2012), The Ghillies (2013) and Lost Psyche (2014). She has two children and lives in Melbourne.
  • 2013 Papapetrou THE GHILLIES catalogue

    Ghillie is derived from the Scottish Gaelic word gille meaning lad or servant. Historically it was a term used to refer to a man or a boy who, as a minion, attended a Highland chief on hunting or fishing expeditions. Scottish gamekeepers may have developed the ghillie suit as a form of hunting camouflage and A History of the Military Sniper claims that its martial use can be traced to the Lovat Scouts, a Scottish Highland regiment that became the British Army’s first sniper unit in 1916. As if that isn’t enough, the Australian Army snipers call their camouflage outfits Yowie suits, referring to Australia’s version of the Yeti or our, Giants From the Dreamtime. So much in a single word! Not content to just offer us these vividly powerful images, even in the title of this exhibition, Polixeni Papapetrou immediately makes us think about land and servitude, masculinity and nature, colonialism and combat.
  • 2011 Catalogue ACP Papapetrou

    Imagination is a defining trait of the human species. For our hominid ancestors it opened up the concept of past and future, of how it might be from another person’s perspective, of weighing the balance of ‘what if...?’ Yet today it is a commodity about which we have certain ambivalence.
  • 2013 Papapetrou CCP catalogue

    Can you imagine this gutsy, petite Greek woman in her mid 20’s—a lawyer by profession but one seriously considering a life outside the law—turning up to the Miss Alternative World Ball at the San Remo Ballroom in Carlton, Melbourne and asking to photograph the drag queens against the exuberant flocked wallpaper, and returning every year from 1988 to 1995. Or similarly, returning on a regular basis, from 1986 to 1993, to the Melbourne General Cemetery in Carlton to photograph earnest Elvis Presley fans in their annual homage. Polixeni Papapetrou was inspired as much by her love of Diane Arbus’s photography as her outsider status as the child of immigrants with a profound respect for difference, in a period in Australia where being Greek was not considered particularly glamorous. From the outset Papapetrou addressed her subject with respect, rigour, determination and a fine understanding of photography’s history and theory.
  • 2016 Papapetrou EDEN catalogue

    Flowers are transient and protean forms. Their life cycle is short lived: the bud blooms and its splendor emerges but then it wilts and dies. The beginning is tethered to the end in a graceful arc. There is sorrow but also beauty in this gesture. A petal falling from its stem retains its elegance. Bruised and faded, it is still beautiful. To photograph a ower as it blossoms is to delay and distill the inevitable. Yet the endpoint—the fade—haunts the image.
  • Polixeni Papapetrou Believes in the Power of Imagination

    Delphi, March 2, 2017

    As the result of my childhood experience, it was natural to go down the path of exploring issues of identity and otherness in my work. At the start I was photographing homeless people, drag queens, Elvis fans, Marilyn Monroe impersonators and body builders. I was drawn to photographing people who lived on the edge of the conventional mainstream or who deviated from the mainstream archetype. I was interested in ‘otherness’. Despite the diversity in the groups that I photographed what they all had in common was that they were performing their identity, that identity is something that is fluid, malleable and can be constructed. While the representation of identity has been a consistent theme in my work, in the past 15 years I have been exploring portrayals of childhood identity. But more than this I have tried to understand what it means to be human.

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  • A New Photography Book Unmasks Fashion’s Glittery Façade

    Anna Furman, New York Magazine, March 22, 2017

    Named after rapper B.G.’s song “Bling Bling,” the photography book Bling Bling Baby explores intersections of ‘90s hip-hop culture and contemporary fashion in lavish excess. While B.G. describes luxury goods as ultimate symbols of success, the photographers featured in Bling Bling Baby capture glamorous lifestyles with “a twinkle in their eye,” the book’s editor Nadine Barth told the Cut.Published by Hatje Cantz, the collection features striking images from a recent exhibition in Germany alongside Barth’s own poetic musings on diamonds, decadence, and conspicuous levels of consumption. “We say bling bling when the glitz almost hurts,” she writes in the book’s introduction, “when we’re blinded by so much luxury and sparkle.” Each photograph examines aspirational living, as shown in the slideshow ahead: In Polixeni Papapetrou’s Eden series, a young woman holds a lush bouquet of red and violet flowers in front of her face, obscuring her ability to see. An image by Daniel Sannwald takes a similar approach, replacing a model’s eyes with two gleaming pearls that match a gaudy white septum ring in his nose. Both images are vibrantly colorful and somewhat campy, underscoring the message that excess can be blinding.

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  • Greek goddess of Australia: Polixeni Papapetrou

    Jean Paul Gavard Perret, Ragazine, Vol. 12 No. 4

    Ten years ago Polixeni Papapetrou was a victim of a stupid controversy in her country. The pretext was that she photographed her daughter (six-years-old) nude. It was to understand nothing that Polixeni Papapetrou explores. Mainly the theme of the transformation and processing from childhood to adolescence, from adulthood to old age. Her experience of the disease made her even more susceptible to the fragility of the life. The beauty remains the essence of her women’s vision. The creator fights for the freedom of the women and of her own work. The Australian knows how to create a very particular “romanticism”. In the lyric which dissipates the intelligence she prefers the latter while remaining capable of offering feelings. They allow her to take the plunge of past in the present and towards the future, which the work announces subtly within its particular ceremonial.

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  • Polixeni Papapetrou photographs youth, beauty and blooms

    Ella Rubeli, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 August 2016

    Artist Polixeni Papapetrou likens human mortality to the life cycle of flowers: subject to seasons of growth, blossoming, and – inevitably – wilting. Her latest series is so dazzling in beauty and colour that you can sense its imminent ruin. Young women, almost suffocated by garlands of flowers in their "garden of Eden" are suspended in a moment of youth.

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