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Australian art


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Untitled no 1



Ingeborg Tyssen

Netherlands, Australia

1945 - 09 Oct 2002


Ingeborg Tyssen arrived in Australia, from her native Holland, in 1957 as a 12 year old and the photographs she made throughout her career convey the sense of loss and dislocation she experienced as a young immigrant. A non-English speaking child, she found that she had to leave behind not only her language, but, as she put it in 1986 ‘the onomatopoeic nursery rhymes which initiated me, as a child, into the dark secrets of the European woods.’ Tyssen’s interest in photography emerged during travel undertaken in the 1970s, and on her return to Sydney she took a class with John F Williams. Influenced by his teaching, Tyssen began exhibiting her own photographs in 1975.

Tyssen’s work is distinguished by its particular intensity. Her earliest works were observational photographs of urban space that explored themes of isolation and dislocation. In particular she was preoccupied with sites of suburban pleasures like fun parks, pools and gardens and produced wry examinations of mundane scenes that implicate the comical and the poetic with the everyday. As critic Blair French noted in 2003, ‘the fascinating “strangeness” of vision in Tyssen's work suggests an authorial consciousness formed, in part, elsewhere and constantly seeking to rearticulate itself within a different world.’ Her oeuvre reflects on the difficulty of communication, while probing the expressive potential of photography as a site for critical engagement.

Tyssen's later works explore the relationship between European artefacts and the perception of our Australian cultural heritage. The broken artefacts in these works were found and photographed in Paris, highlighting the idea of the great European cities being a bastion of culture and a repository of cultural remnants.

The perceived notions of the 'civilised' Europe and the 'uncivilised' new country meant that until recently many Australians looked to Europe to find a cultural identity. Tyssen questions this need and her own position as a European migrant in Australia, and reflects upon the fragmentary and dislocated nature of memory, history and culture.




Media category


Materials used

2 gelatin silver photographs


31.5 x 97.9 cm sight overall; 44.5 x 111.0 cm frame :

1 - left, 31.5 x 49.1 cm, sight

2 - head right, 31.5 x 48.7 cm, sight

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased with funds provided by the J.S. Watkins Memorial Fund 1993


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Ingeborg Tyssen

Works in the collection


Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


Judy Annear, Points of view: Australian photography 1985-95, Sydney, 2005. no catalogue numbers

Anthony Bond and Victoria Lynn, AGNSW Collections, 'Contemporary Practice - Here, There, Everywhere ...', pg. 229-285, Sydney, 1994, 262 (illus.).

Isobel Johnston, Ingeborg Tyssen - Twenty years on photography, Sydney, 1995, 2 (illus.). 88