Humana – Shadow

Humana – Relic

Humana – Flesh

All images are Ltd. Ed. 10 + 2 AP, Archival Pigment Inks on Hahnemule Fine Art Paper, 2006, image size 90cm x 60cm

Catalogue essay by Jonathan Turner

For more than a decade, the award-winning, mixed-media photographs of Sydney-based artist Maree Azzopardi have presented the human body as a contemporary metaphor for beauty, decay, glory and shame. Sometimes her photos are crumpled, lacquered and layered with tarnished gold, as though it is her technique that is damaged, rather than the figures she portrays. She explores the themes of religion, death and sexuality, an explosive combination in any language. Her work has been seen in important solo and group exhibitions in Australia, Italy, Malta and the U.S. For her latest Humana series, Azzopardi again focuses on the inherent spirituality of the human body, each time presented in a new context.

The Humana series is itself divided into three distinctive sections, to be exhibited in simultaneous solo exhibitions at the Libby Edwards Galleries in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. After an intense period of work and travel primarily in Europe, this trio of shows represents the relaunch of Azzopardi’s career in Australia.

Humana – Shadow are overhead images of figures casting long, ominous shadows in the ancient centre of Rome. Such elements as a raised hand, a red flag or an open shutter stand out when seen from above, while the living, breathing people themselves virtually disappear. Their bodies are reduced to flat, black projections. It is left up to their shadows to suggest their personalities, their emotions and their symbolic gestures.

Humana – Relic is a series of four large images, more closely resembling paintings than photographs. Although her subjects are two statues from St Philips Church in Zebbuge in Malta, Azzopardi has lent a strong, personal touch to these inanimate, though life-like, saintly figures.  Azzopardi’s mixed Australian-Maltese heritage gives her an unusual viewpoint from where she reinterprets the emotional impact of classical religious imagery.

Humana – Flesh reveals a more intimate approach. In a hotel room in Rome, Azzopardi produced five grainy images of the same reclining nude model. Using a digital camera, the artist has taken soft-focus close-ups of the feminine lines of a lazy figure, creating landscapes of skin. These portraits have been crushed and rephotographed to create networks of crackled lines. In Azzopardi’s hands, the human body is further removed from reality.

Jonathan Turner

Click here for article by Jonathan Turner in Art + Auction (New York) November called Rome’s Recent Renaissance (p141) which contextualises Maree Azzopardi’s work within the Italian art scene.