Amanda Williams | In the arms of unconsciousness: Women, feminism & the surreal | Hazelhurst Arts Centre, 2023 | curated by Carrie Kibbler



Artist Statement

Or your shadow, rising to meet you 2020-2023, is a continuing series of works that reflect my interest in the history of photography, and the elemental properties of light, time and the experience of being in physical environments. The installation forms a symbolic representation of a private place, my home, and my relationship with my daughter. It offers a call and response between the original four photographic ‘portraits’ made in 2020, and a new four-panel mural scale photogram, depicting the warp and weft of a single piece of linen fabric.

The 4 photographs of arms outstretched, catching, and playing with the light were originally commissioned by the Art Gallery of NSW and exhibited over the summer of 2020/2021. I was invited to consider the impact of ‘present time’ and respond to the idea of ‘a portrait’, when being close, connected, felt unsafe, uneasy and for some - impossible. With my 35mm camera balanced in one hand, torchlight in the other, I began by documenting my daughters playful, gestural, improvisation with light and shadow on my bedroom wall. The moment was playful, hesitant, and hopeful at once – the simple action of a child playing with light, informed by the unconscious. I had recently read The Waste land by T. S. Eliot and it felt unexpectedly resonant and relevant, leaving an impression on me and my work.

T. S. Eliot wrote ‘The Waste Land’ in 1922, during a period characterised by post world-war weariness, Spanish Flu pandemic and a palpable sense of disconnection and desolation. People had been through so much, too much. Families separated. Family numbers painfully diminished. Boarders reconfigured. Religion abandoned. A new reality was needed and heralded, one that praised and encouraged connection between people and recognised the innate fortitude of the individual; restoring faith in a sense of place, a new sense of home. A new reality that severed ties with the past while exploring (exorcising) the deep shadows that were lurking in the recesses of dystopian visions of the early 20th century: Cubism. Surrealism, Dada, Futurism et al., providing the ‘new’. In hindsight of course, the new reality of the 1920’s and early 30’s was short lived, replaced by an ever-harsher reality.

Or your shadow rising to meet you, the title of this series, is a riff on a line from the opening section of the poem. The reader is invited to journey into the desert, a sparse, inhospitable place. The journey offers the traveller, the reader, a promise of something special, ‘something different’ – the epitome of modernist transformation.

And I will show you something different from either

Your shadow at morning striding behind you

Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

The correspondence between ‘your shadow at morning’ and ‘your shadow at evening’, I find particularly evocative and beautiful. The sense of shadows doubling before and behind the same figure across a span of time, reflecting the cyclical nature of life and death. Could the practice of photography and light sensitive methods be described in a similar way?

It is interesting to reflect upon the fact that the photogram is believed to be the earliest photographic process conceived. An object is placed on top of light sensitive paper in a dark room, it casts a shadow and the shadow is registered, ‘caught’ in negative form, against a void of darkness. 



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