Mystic Renegade: the Promise of Return

Art Life , Exhibitions Feb 20, 2015 No Comments

From Sharne Wolff

Designed to parallel Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and International Women’s Day, The Australian Centre for Photography is currently displaying photographs centred on body representation and shifting identities. Included is that of Christian Thompson whose recent series Polari is exhibited alongside Eight Limbs – the artist’s latest body of work.

LR_'Molecular Melt' from the Eight Limbs Series, 100cm x 100cm, Fuji Pearl Metallic Paper, 2014

The Polari of the title refers to a type of anti-language. Now considered endangered, it was used mostly in Britain by gay men, lesbians, prostitutes and theatre workers, as well as their friends and associates, during the years between the 1930s and 70s. A private means of communication, these groups used the secret language as a safeguard. Well known for his self-portraiture and performance work, Thompson appears in Polari as a number of ambiguous characters in drag. Having obscured his Indigenous male identity with newly whitened skin, varied wigs and feathered and floral headdresses, Thompson’s seductive portraits are highly charged with shifting emotions.

Continuing the theme of lost languages – closer to home this time – Eight Limbs consists of a series of white on black text images, accompanied by a video performance entitled Refuge. Thompson’s haunting performance (sung in the now extinct Indigenous Bidjara language) falls beautifully in the space between celebration and lament. Forming circular or diamond shapes in an ancient style of font, the lyrics from the song are repeated across the series of photographs.

Until March 22
Australian Centre for Photography, Paddington
Pic: Christian Thompson, Molecular Melt 2014 (from the Eight Limbs series), 100 x 100cm, Fuji Pearl Metallic paper. Courtesy the artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney and Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne.

Sharne Wolff

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