Magnetic, alluring, spellbinding and deliciously fake, Anne Zahalka’s ‘Nicole Kidman 2007’ casts an eerily familiar gaze at the viewer. This iconic look, circulating on a daily basis in mass media, is so ubiquitous that we take it for granted: only a startling moment later do we realize that it actually belongs to a wax statue cast in 2007 for Madame Tussaud’s museum in Hollywood.
Part of the series ‘The immortals’, this detailed ‘portrait’ attains its pull thanks to the saturated colour scheme of reds and blacks, while the dazzling spotlight and presentation allow the figure to radiate. All of these characteristics are common to religious painting, portraits of royalty, advertising lightboxes and Hollywood posters to which the artist often refers as a means of decoding popular modes of representation.
Zahalka has been consistently investigating this border between real and fabrication throughout her career in series such as ‘Bondi: playground of the Pacific’ 1989, ‘Open house’ 1995 and ‘Leisureland’ 1998-. Situated in the realms of culture, entertainment and leisure, Zahalka’s witty parodies turn back the mirror upon the systems that generate popular beliefs and practices. Using classically ironic post-modernist devices (ranging from appropriated or recreated art to photomontage), she asks the viewer to probe beneath daily, normative phenomena that govern our lives. This, of course, also requires the questioning of her own chosen medium, since, as the artist has put it, ‘it’s incredible how we still so want to believe in the photograph, even when we know how easy it is to lie.’1
Ultimately ‘Nicole Kidman 2007’ has nothing to do with Nicole Kidman. This luminously glowing effigy is more an embodiment of society’s mythmaking processes and a projection of contemporary culture’s insatiable desire to create hypereal images that devour reality itself.
1. Alasdair Foster, Anne Zahalka. ‘Interview with Anne Zahalka’, ‘Photofile’, no 69, Aug 2003 p 19
archival pigment ink photograph
1/5 + 2AP
89.5 x 58.8 cm image/sheet
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors' Program 2011
Not on display
© Anne Zahalka, Licensed by Copyright Agency
Shown in 2 exhibitions
Referenced in 1 publication
Isobel Parker Philip, Look, 'Extremely loud and incredibly close', pg.24-26, Sydney, Apr 2015, 24 (colour illus.).