It is Midnight, Dr._ _, image 9, from the series It is Midnight, Dr._ _
In Jane Burton’s photographs, female sexuality becomes a cipher. Her subjects appear vulnerable and exposed but also possess an insistent agency. Faceless bodies lie languid in eerie landscapes, unsettling the viewer with their ambiguity. Are the women dead? Or are they in ecstasy? With a tonal sensibility derived from early photography and film noir and a penchant for motifs that reanimate gothic narratives and 19th century spiritualism, Burton de-contextualises her scenes. We are unable to place them historically – instead they read as haunting hallucinations or fragments from a dream.
The apparent inaccessibility of Burton’s imaginary worlds is further enhanced by her frequent use of compositional devices that force the viewer to look through a frame. Whether she uses the grid of a window, the branches of a tree or the dark edges of a vignette, Burton turns the viewer into a voyeur.
The frames we look through in Burtons’ 2016 series It is Midnight, Dr.__ are the sprockets of a strip of photographic film. Visible in the final print, these sprockets remind us of the act and event of photography. Aware of the fabrication of the image, we begin to question its staging. Are the women victims or are they performing for the camera? The photograph of the empty stage included in the series, and among those on offer, poetically tips the balance on this debate.
type C photograph
99.0 x 110.0 cm image; 114.5 x 125.0 x 6.0 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed verso frame u.r, black ink "J Burton"
Dated verso frame u.l., black ink "2016"
Gift of Bill Bowness 2020. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Not on display
© Jane Burton
Shown in 1 exhibition
Hold still: the photographic performance, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 May 2018–29 Jul 2018