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Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

In line with decisions made by the National Cabinet as communicated by the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is currently closed but will reopen to the public on 1 June. The Gallery will be observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of all visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the State. More information




Australian art


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Self portrait



Juliana Swatko

United States of America, Australia

1952 -


Juiliana Swatko works with alternative photographic processes challenging and redefining the limits of the photographic image. Exploring antiquated and unconventional techniques, including cyanotype printing, hand coloured and electrostatic imaging, thermal printing and, more recently, lomographic photography combined with digitally manipulated superimposition, she produces complex images that relinquish the premise of straight representation. Employing plants and other natural elements as its primary subject matter, a lot of her photographic work treads the line between abstraction and figuration, producing unrecognizable forms from commonplace plant life. However, her photographs of people are equally compelling for the way they distort and refigure the body.

Working with such experimental methods allowed Swatko to introduce an element of chance within her work. By rigorously testing these initially unpredictable processes, Swatko was able to create parameters to control the outcome of each image. Yet even so, the formal features of each work remain dependent on the particular technology used. With their smooth matte texture, the Haloid Xerox prints look like charcoal drawings.

In the tangle of superimposed forms, built up through multiple exposures, traces of movement emerge from the image. Some of these forms are barely comprehensible. In ‘Self portrait’ Swatko’s own face is obscured by an indistinct form; what could be a shoulder or the side profile of a torso. Splintered and severed from its body, the face is veiled by high contrast image fragments. Here, the self has become an abstract play of form.




Media category


Materials used

Haloid Xerox print on archival paper


22.3 x 33.7 cm image; 24.5 x 34.4 cm sheet

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.l. sheet, pencil "J. Swatko 1978".


Purchased 1981


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Juliana Swatko

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Gael Newton, Re-constructed Vision: Contemporary work with photography, Sydney, 1981. 49