Ella Dreyfus - Scumbag
Exhibition: 9 April to 10 May, 2008
Ella Dreyfus' first exhibition Pregnancy Series (Stills Gallery, 1992) had a huge impact generating large crowds, critical attention and polarising audiences. Her subsequent exhibitions have included The Body Pregnant (1993), Age and Consent (1999), Transman (2001), Under Twelves (2005) and Weight and Sea (2005). Dreyfus specialises in subject matter that presses buttons, and this can cause discomfort to some viewers. Her images reflect upon the frailty and physicality of the human condition and on subjects who are often rendered invisible and hidden from view.
In Scumbag photography becomes only one element in a complex interactive installation. This marks a new approach for Dreyfus. Central to this work is language and the power of words to evoke strong emotions. The artwork consists of hand-stitched felt alphabet letters in bright kindergarten colours which when 'played with' create words and phrases on the walls. In their untouched state they make an inviting pile on the floor. The words spelt out by Dreyfus are the words of psychological trauma, words of abuse or the impact of abuse.
Scumbag. Horrific. Punishing Silence.
The photographs in the exhibition reveal these same words placed within the landscape of an anonymous suburban housing estate, evoking a silent testimony witnessed only by the artist through the camera lens. Dreyfus is demonstrating her concern for emotionally charged inner and outer worlds.
This complex work evokes a dialogue between childhood, materiality, feelings and language. At the centre sit powerful phrases, which lay bare innermost thoughts. They visually and linguistically inscribe intimate aspects of identity that often remain shamefully and fearfully concealed 'behind closed doors'.
Once again Dreyfus is pressing our buttons, by disrupting the line between the public and the private domain.
Ella Dreyfus was the winner of the Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture in 2005. The monograph The Body Pregnant was published by McPhee Gribble/Penguin Books in 1993. Her photographs are represented in public and private collections. She is currently an Australian Postgraduate Award Scholar at the University of NSW and this exhibition forms a major component of her PhD research.