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Up in the sky 15, from the series Up in the sky



Tracey Moffatt

Australia, United States of America

12 Nov 1960 -


Tracey Moffatt’s photographic practice is firmly entrenched within the narrative and stylistic lexicon of television, film and media culture. Much of her work is based on recollections of media images from ‘a whole 1960s childhood and 1970s adolescence [spent] glued to the television or with my nose in a book’.1 She typically uses photography to raid the image banks of popular culture and personal memory, recasting familiar visual codes with an acutely critical edge. For example, her well-known 1989 series, ‘Something more’, draws on the imagery of B-grade films of the 1950s and the racy covers of schlock novels of the 1960s; while ‘Scarred for life’ 1994, references the photojournalism and photo essays of ‘Life’ magazine.

Like ‘Something more’, ‘Up in the sky’ returns to the subject of race and violence, presenting a loose narrative set against the backdrop of an outback town, ‘a place of ruin’ and devastation populated by misfits and marginal characters. Unlike previous series, it was shot on location and dispenses with the scenography which is a feature of her earlier work. ‘Up in the sky’ is one of Moffatt’s larger photographic series and takes many of its visual cues from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s masterpiece of Italian modernist cinema ‘Accattone’ 1961. The story hinges on a triangular mixed-race relationship. Of this work Moffatt has said: ‘My work is full of emotion and drama, you can get to that drama by using a narrative, and my narratives are usually very simple, but I twist it … there is a storyline, but … there isn’t a traditional beginning, middle and end.’2

1. Moffatt T & Newton G 1995, ‘Tracey Moffatt: fever pitch’, Piper Press, Sydney p 5
2. Matt G 2002, ‘An interview with Tracey Moffatt’, ‘Tracey Moffatt’, eds P Savage & L Strongman, City Gallery Wellington, Wellington p 34

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




Media category


Materials used

toned photolithograph




61.0 x 76.0 cm image (irreg.); 72.0 x 101.5 cm sheet; 90.4 x 103.8 x 2.1 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r.corner sheet "Tracey Moffatt `97".


Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales Contempo Group 1997


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Tracey Moffatt

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 10 publications


Judy Annear, Look, 'Contempo supports Photography Collection', pg. 24, Heidelberg, Mar 1998, 24 (illus.).

Judy Annear, Look: 1953-2003 celebrating 50 years, 'Art through a lens' photography and the Art Gallery Society', pg.48-50, Sydney, May 2003, 49.

Bronwyn Clark-Coolee, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Time - memory - people', pg.246-265, Sydney, 2007, 246 (illus.), 252, 262 (illus.).

Adrian Martin, Artlink: The big pond, Australian artists overseas, 'Tracey Moffatt's lost highway', pg. 14-15, South Australia, Dec 1998.

Jane Somerville, Look, 'Where to now, Contempo?', pg.28-31, Sydney, Jul 2007, 30.

Justin Spring, Art and Text, 'Hunters and collectors', pg. 60-65, Rose Bay, Feb 1998, 62 (colour illus.).

Dr Miranda Wallace, Brought to light II: Australian art 1966-2006, 'Tracey Moffatt's visual pleasures', pg. 308-315, South Brisbane, 2007, 313 (illus.).

Photography and Australia, 'Localism and internationalism', pg.110-133, London, 2007, 129.

Tracey Moffatt, Paris, 1999, (colour illus.).

Strange Days, 'Tracey Moffatt', pg. 18-25, Sydney, 1998, 18-25, 23 (colour illus.).