Participation in the Head On Photo Festival has been a significant career boost, says Auckland artist Cathy Carter.
A finalist in the portrait section two years running, Carter says the judges’ feedback as well as the workshops and professional collaboration associated with the Sydney-based festival has been valuable.
The artist says that the festival offered significant exposure for new work. Work by last year’s finalists toured to New York’s Photoville in Brooklyn, and Hyderabad, India, as well as exhibiting in Sydney.
Carter was one of two Kiwi finalists in this year’s Head On portrait prize with her work ‘Ophelia’. An exhibition of finalists work is exhibiting at the Museum of Sydney (until May 29, 2016). The other Kiwi finalist is Catherine Cattanach. Carter’s work Idya #2 was a finalist in last year’s Head On portrait prize.
“It’s great to be in the company of such strong and interesting work,” she says.
On the back of last year’s Brooklyn, New York show, Carter is the sole Kiwi in a group show upcoming at New York’s Agora Gallery, featuring artists from Australasia.
‘Out from Downunder & Beyond: Fine Art from Australia and New Zealand’ opens at Agora’s Chelsea gallery on May 26 and runs May 20 – June 9, 2016. Her work will also be on show in Paris in June at the MoaRoom. This show arose from Roderick Fry of Moaroom seeing Carter’s work chosen as a finalist in the Head On Portrait prize 2015.
“There’s no doubt that being part of the Head On Festival has paid dividends,” she says. “Competitions and festivals are a great way to put forward new work and share in a global conversation in the medium.”
Carter’s practice is based in Grey Lynn in Auckland. She was a 2014 Wallace Awards finalist and has twice been a finalist for the Glaistor Enor Award.
Head On Photography Festival 2016
This portrait Ophelia is inspired by pre Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais’ famous depiction of the drowned Ophelia, Hamlet’s lover from Shakespeare’s tragedy. At the original painting’s debut at the Royal Academy in London in 1852, critics were dismayed. The Times declared that “there must be something strangely perverse in the imagination which sources Ophelia in a weedy ditch, and robs the drowning struggle of that love-lorn maiden of all pathos and beauty”. Carter’s Ophelia is a contemporary young male, semi submerged in a setting as likely to have upset The Times – an alpine bog on Mt Ruapehu in the Tongariro World Heritage Park in the central North Island of Aotearoa / New Zealand. This bog was formed in land planed and hollowed out by glacier ice. This alpine wetland hosts alpine bog cushion (Donatia novae-zelandiae), containing rushes, liverworts, sedges, mosses (including peat-forming Sphagnum) and algae.
Even though both images were created in winter. Millais’ model the 19 year old Elizabeth Siddell, posed for hrs in a tub that initially was warmed by oil lamps underneath it . However when these went out Elizabeth was left lying for in freezing cold water resulting in a cold. Thanks to the immediacy of photography 22 yr old art student Ziggy Lever only had to lie in the near freezing bog for a few minutes!
In choosing to portray Ophelia as a male I was also referencing the theatrical convention of Shakespeare’s time, namely that he would have written the part of Ophelia to be played by a young man. Finally, Ophelia is thought to have taken her own life. Aotearoa/ New Zealand ‘has the second highest rate of youth suicide in the OECD and young Maori men continue to be disproportionately represented in statistics”. Just as Ophelia’s departure was shrouded in mystery, so very little is understood about why teenage boys and young men take their lives in such numbers, and very little effort has been made to understand this alarming trend. Some psychologists attribute this trend to young males’ perception of how they are seen as males in contemporary culture.
Image: Ophelia (Head On Portait Prize 2016)
Medium: archival print on Hahnemuhle photo rag 310gsm
Size: 950 x 640mm