(Australia 03 Mar 1942 – )
100.2 x 80.2 cm image; 127.3 x 126.5 cm sheet
’Nightmares we live with. I guess it's a matter of how we deal with them. What fuels them. How we process them. How we make them go away. What we may learn from them. I never cease to be amazed by the shear audacity of the recalled dream image.’
The site of Brassington’s dream images is often a domestic setting – faintly recognizable with its carpeted floors, old fashioned wallpaper and ordinary furniture. But it is a place that floats outside time or reality with no identifying or contextualising elements to ground the content. To further push the pervasively haunting quality of her photographs, Brassington alternatively covers or leaves out the human face. When it is present, the face is distorted beyond recognition. The viewer is thus compelled to fill in these gaps in a larger context, like missing pages in a constantly mutating story.
The character depicted in ‘Drink me’ is bent as if reeling from sudden illness. Yet, as the artist has left out the head, the gesture and the presence itself become uncomfortably ambiguous, especially when we notice that the bare arms protruding from the flowing white dress are covered in hair. The little garden gnome in the lower corner of the picture creates another point of tension. Its brightly glowing, fleshy, phallic-like shape acquires a gravitational pull in an otherwise monochrome picture-plane. The title of the work, implying an impending action, adds a disturbingly suggestive layer to the combination of these benign elements. Yet, the grotesquesness and the uncanny in Brassington’s work are framed in the guise of the everyday: it is a normal world turned inside out.
Taking her cue from the Surrealists, as well as referring to Alice in wonderland, Brassington reveals the astonishing power of the mind to transform the most innocent of objects and/or situations into hives of seething menace and horror. However, unlike the Surrealist artists, Brassington does not aim to represent the subconscious in any definite terms. With its digitally assembled and manipulated fragments (a mode that Brassington uses in almost all her works) ‘Drink me’ works purely on the power of suggestion, like a photographic Freudian slip that teases and lingers around its open ends.
Alasdair Foster, Pat Brassington ‘Interview with Pat Brassington’, ‘Photofile’, no 81, Spring 2007 p 22
Australian Centre for Photography, Photographic Australis, Sydney, 2002, 39.
Anne Marsh, Pat Brassington: this is not a photograph, 2006, 46.
Helen McDonald, Erotic ambiguities: the female nude in art, London, 2001, 184.
Loveart: the Love collection, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre & Liverpool Regional Museum, Casula, 03 Dec 2010–20 Feb 2011