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Phoebe Johnson

Smith’s Hill High School

Artwork title
When memory doesn’t persist
HSC year
Expressive form
Artist’s statement

Loss of memory leads to confusion, disorientation and grief, but also at times humour. In this surrealistic portrait I have tried to capture the bewildering array of emotions I observed in my nanna as she fell deeper into the dense fog of dementia. She reaches out, attempting to grasp her past and history, yet her lucid thoughts are fleeting, and as soon as they materialise, they begin to drip away. The ‘persistence of memory’ makes up our essence and in my work I explore the anguish of one whose memories, and thus identity, has begun to disappear.

Collection connections

Is it possible to depict a person accurately in one image? Can an audience understand the complexities of a person with a single portrayal? Consider Heath and When memory doesn’t persist. Discuss how the artists have experimented with the genre of portraiture and how their approach adds depth to understanding the subject.

Research the Archibald Prize and its contribution to portrait painting in Australia. Why do audiences have strong opinions about this exhibition? Investigate the prize winners using the Gallery’s Archibald Prize database and discuss the variations of approach. Examine Vincent Fantauzzo’s People’s Choice winning portraits in particular. Why do you think his artworks are so popular?