An Interview with Eliza Hutchison

Interview with Eliza Hutchison

Installation detail of Family Photos B, 2016, Bus Projects

The first thing I came across on your website is installation images, so I am keen to ask do you curate your own work on the wall and what is the process of doing so?

Yes. There is a loose, fractured narrative similar to a haphazard stream of consciousness. I liken it to poetry in the way that a series of discrete visual concepts are brought together in an idiosyncratic order. I map out a plan of what images will go together. However, when you are actually in the space, the images in the environment of the gallery dictate what works and what doesn't. I am interested in how the images, through their ordering and placement, are read by viewers and how their readings differ from my own, so I will often have an in-depth discussion with the curator or dealer about possible conceptual and visual narratives.

I really like the abstract blue image. It seems you have paired quite a few abstracted images with your portraits. What do the abstracted images actually depict, and how do you choose which go together?

The blue abstract image is a detail from a blue rosette, an illusive marker of my daughters simmering desire to succeed. It is like the blue noise of her id pressing against her ego ideal. Hence the image is paired with a slightly disaffected portrait of her living in duress in Paris—out of her preferred environment, the outer-urban wilds. I like this idea of psychological pairings in which the abstract informs the less abstract.

Something I always enjoy is when appropriated images and those of a photographer are shown together in one body of work. I feel it shows a sense of time and historical context. Can you tell me a little more about the black-and-white image of the two gentlemen, in which one is poking his head out from behind the other?

The man at the front is my father, a film executive, at a film premier in Johannesburg, where we used to live. It was taken at a politically charged time in late 60's South Africa. The image crop removes my father from a troubling scenario; troubling because he is posing with one of the instigators of apartheid. My father’s disaffected smile and the hiding face behind and his bid for inclusion in this unsettling set is an example of micro-histories brought to the fore.

Installation view of Family Photos B, 2016, Bus Projects

I notice that you used white frames for Family Photos but for Family Photos B you chose black. What significance does this have for the work?

The work Family Photos ran with its own sub-narrative of my stay at Cité des Arts in Paris. The work produced was a discordant series of concept stills from my own “Hammer Horror” narrative that oscillated between Australia and Paris. The white frames allowed the images to run together more freely, while Family Photos B used a more formalised framing technique for what were more discrete works without out any real sub-narrative.

Can you tell me a little more about your work and why it was important for you to create it? What inspired you to create this work? Do you have any influences or references?

The work is really in essence a visual exploration of consciousness. Enacting a series of experiments and useful accidents, I aim to re-contextualise and re-formulate images of images, shifting meaning and heightening sentiment. It’s like shaking them to see what comes out and then re-interpreting the outcome.

I love the work of Rennie Ellis. If I could cross it with Peter Fischli and David Weiss and then with early 20th century spirit photography then you might have something.

Strobe, Bangkok, 2004 (2012)                                         Tatum, 2012 (2012)

Some people might say that it is easy or lazy to shoot a project about your family as they are readily at your disposal. What would you say in response to this?

I think there is integrity in a project in which meaning flows out of a subject rather than being thrust upon it. I have always been drawn to documentary film and photography as well as biographies. Essentially, my work is about the human condition, albeit from a highly personalised point of view. When showing your work, did you get any interesting feedback or comments that perhaps allowed you to see the work in a new light?

I think I did from Natasha Bullock and her discussion with me in relation to the play between extracting and manufacturing memories and sentiment. She highlighted the process in my work by which I create an image from a remembered experience, such as in Heart of Glass, Prince Alfred, 1979 (2012). This image then becomes a marker, a memento mori, in lieu of a concrete, physical image from the time, and thus it somehow mediates as well as reinforces the sense of loss associated with that point in time.

Montrose, 1998                                                                    Heart of Glass, Prince Alfred, 1979 (2012)

Would you say this project is finished? If not, what would you visualise the next step to be if, hypothetically, you were given a grant of $10,000?

No, this project will never be finished; it is a way of seeing. I am working on a series of abstractions that mirror a childhood project of painting stripes.

What was the hardest part of creating this work, and what was the most enjoyable?

The hardest is wrestling my other commitments to maintain a continuity of thought and process, and the most enjoyable is getting the image.

Interview by Sophie Willison



Eliza Hutchison
lives and works in Melbourne. Born in South Africa in 1965, she moved to Sydney Australia in 1969 . She was educated at UNSW and RMIT Melbourne, where she studied architecture, film, sculpture and photography, and received Honours in Installation Arts, SCA, 1994.

Eliza has worked as an educator in art and design at RMIT and Swinburne, Melbourne and has exhibited in Australia and Asia including the Museum of Modern Art Heide, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography and Asian Biannale, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne; National Gallery of Victoria and the Balnaves Contemporary at Art Gallery of NSW.
Her interest lies in exploring our complex and psychological relationship to the photographic image and its materiality. She is represented by Murray White Room Melbourne. Family Photo’s published this May by Perimeter Editions

Sophie Willison was born in London in 1995 and studied fine art photography in London. In October 2015 she moved over to Sydney to rediscover her love of Australia. She is currently working on the fourth issue of her magazine terra firma, planning upcoming exhibitions and collaborations, and working on her latest venture Sandalwood Project!