(New Zealand 1979 – )
35.5 x 47.5 cm sight; 64.5 x 74.5 x 3.5 cm frame
Born in Tauranga, NZ in 1979, Wellington-based Hamish Tocher’s work collages images of popular culture, particularly fashion, with paintings from the 14th to 17th centuries, resulting in one – culturally disorientating – visual representation. The juxtaposition of the two seemingly disparate visuals heightens our awareness not only of the debt fashion imagery, perhaps photography in general, owes classical painting, but of how little the image of humanity has changed. In ‘Ressemblances Parlantes II (Velasquez Vuitton)’, Tocher places Velasquez’s ‘The dwarf Sebastian de Morra’ beside a contemporary fashion photograph of a dwarf sporting a Louis Vuitton bag, the tension created by the self-evident similarities between the two images is the essence of Tocher’s oeuvre.
Glenn Barkley (unpub mss, artist file) says that Tocher’s collages make ‘high art look like high fashion’, but Tocher is sure to make his hand in their inception apparent. The collages are not perfectly rendered and the rephotographed juxtapositions appear like pages of a magazine, ‘as if you’d just opened the page to that pairing.’ Barkley suggests that this creates a further distancing, ‘flattening out [the collage’s] materiality rather than presenting it as an object in itself’.
Other Tocher works, such as ‘Annunciation’ 2002-3, are collaged in a complex fashion. They reference the gestural direction and tableau style of 15th century painting by utilising contemporary images (photography), including recognisable popular personalities like actors Cate Blanchett and Jude Law. This further enhances the sense of similarity between the two art forms and raises awareness of popular culture’s reduction of the past into byte-size portions. Self-describing it as ‘anachronistic sampling’ [‘FLASH, #1’ 2009], Tocher’s work simultaneously subverts the monumentality artists like Caravaggio and Velasquez have obtained, and reminisces after the relative simplicity of art before the world was saturated with images.
On Tocher’s website (http://www.hamishtocher.co.nz/words.html), the artist describes the Scanner camera images as ‘suggestive of 19th century photography, but made using a scanner and a laptop. This application of a new technology to an old trope implies likenesses: glass plate; black hood; pictorialism, and highlights differences: pixelization; modern artefact; the end of the analogue.”
The artist has exhibited extensively across New Zealand, as well as at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne and the University of Canberra, in Australia. In 2008 he won Emerging Researcher of the Year from the Wellington Institute of Technology.