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Contemporary art


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Sago child



Pat Brassington


03 Mar 1942 -


‘Sago child’ marks the introduction of colour in Pat Brassington’s work, the artist having previously been committed to black-and-white imagery. Her initial use of colour is subtle and controlled. Being still ‘seduced by the monochrome image’, Brassington applies colour in softly tinted transparent layers via digital editing.1 The pastel colour insinuates infancy and intimacy but this is not the claustrophobic intimacy of ‘In my mother’s house’ 1994 (AGNSW collection). There is a more immediate sense of this being a constructed image, as opposed to the evidential, documentary nature of the domestic images of ‘In my mother’s house’. ‘Sago child’ seems more patently symbolic of linkages with the maternal body and less like experiential evidence.

In comprehending the work’s manipulated figure, with its radiating blue umbilical cord and round satiated doll’s belly, the form of a magic and surreal feeding infant is suggested. Yet the addition of elongated legs to this doll torso alters this perception, suggesting instead a ripe maternal figure. Brassington’s skill in constructing works that tap directly into the subconscious mind and memory is evident. ‘Sago child’ alludes to the complex entwining concepts of mother–child relations, bodily function and creation, sustenance and, perhaps, humble cravings for sago?

1. Brassington P quoted in Klaosen D 1988, ‘An interview with Pat Brassington’, ‘Imprint’, vol 33, no 2, winter p 10

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007




Media category


Materials used

inkjet print


69.7 x 50.3 cm image; 105.6 x 82.9 cm sheet; 109.5 x 86.5 x 5.5 cm frame

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors' Program 2000


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Pat Brassington

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 2 publications


George Alexander, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Tableaux - memento mori - screen culture', pg.313-335, Sydney, 2007, 323 (colour illus.).

Judy Annear, World without end - Photography and the 20th century, 'World without end: Photography and the 20th Century', pg.8-29, Sydney, 2000, 18, 67 (colour illus.).