Robyn Stacey - Empire Line

Exhibition: 24 September to 24 October, 2009

Robyn Stacey

Robyn Stacey

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The products of much research, the works in this exhibition are made as echoes and resonances rather than programmatic illustrations of names, dates and events. Robyn Stacey’s “Empire Line” not only talks about role of desire in the transport of taste and knowledge systems, but also reveals once again the ongoing fascination with and strength of the still life tradition.

Craig Judd - 2009 Empire Line catalogue essay

Robyn Stacey's Empire Line combines traditional still-life painting and contemporary art. Drawing on the collections of the NSW Historic Houses Trust she selects and then photographs preserved original artifacts to evocatively recreate the lavish interiors of 19 th Century estates such as Elizabeth Bay House and Vaucluse House.

Stacey's transformation of these historic spaces and objects allows us not only to glance into earlier worlds but also to consider hierarchies of taste, culture and knowledge. Fontaine de Vaucluse for example, brimming with the fruit and vegetables that were originally grown in the grounds of Vaucluse House, is a fecund testament to the enthusiasms and efforts of its owner William Charles Wentworth. Details such as fallen petals on a tabletop or the sheen on a plate of freshly cut salmon give the images an immediacy that suggests the inhabitants of the house are not far away.

The First Cut (After Robert Spear Dunning), 2009, in which an ornate knife stabs the red flesh of a watermelon, undercuts the apparent innocence of historical still-life painting, specifically the fruit filled, warm and rustic works by American painter Robert Spear Dunning (1829 - 1905). While this photograph is set within Vaucluse House, the home of William Charles Wentworth who had a soft spot for watermelons, the loaded, sinister tone of the work is testament that Stacey goes beyond historically sound documentation to create imaginative and compelling works.

Robyn Stacey has exhibited widely in Australia and internationally since the mid 1980s. Her works are held in the collections of Artbank, National Gallery of Australia, National Portrait Gallery, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of Western Australia, National Gallery of Victoria and Queensland Art Gallery, as well as numerous university, corporate and private collections. Her exhibition The Great and the Good, 2008 marked the beginning of this project.