Matthew 12:12 Portrait


Matthew 12.12 Portrait, 2004, 144 ceramic sheep, 14x4x12” (36x10x30cm) each
and 12 portrait photographs, 28×33” (71x84cm) each
Blue Oyster Gallery, Dunedin
Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui
Object Space, Auckland
Wellington City Gallery, Wellington
Criterion Gallery, Hobart, Australia

I depicted twelve dressed sheep from the Matthew 12:12 Live installation in the tradition of life scale portrait photography and as a collection of small ceramic statues. Portrait photography is the site of a complex series of interactions- aesthetic, cultural, ideological, sociological and psychological. Historically it was equated with the highly privileged form of oil painting. Portrait photography was reserved for the elite, to celebrate the upper classes, privileged people in our society. With the development of the camera becoming accessible to the general public, the portrait or snap shot takes on another context.

The photographs explore these two dialectics, the elevation of the image and the everyday depiction of the image. With the simple gesture of capturing or freezing the sheep’s important-unimportant existence, I am elevating them from their trivial status. By exhibiting their portraits in a gallery context I give them a quasi importance yet the postcard and snapshot depiction cannot be removed.

Alongside the photographs I exhibited colourful slip cast ceramic sculptures of the twelve sheep that appear as though mass-produced. They are installed on the floor of the gallery and look like strange souvenirs from a tourist or garden shop. In contrast to the works on the wall they draw a parallel to a more common kitsch depiction of New Zealand sheep.