This Is Not A Portrait – TJ Phillipson at Photoaccess

Just when I think 2009 has drawn to an artistic close, Photoaccess makes a last minute dash with one of the best exhibitions I have seen all year.

Semblance is a suite of new photographic works by recent ANU graduate TJ Phillipson, who forgoes technological bells and whistles for the simple assuredness of studio photography and montage. Old school methodology with a fresh interpretation.

Each of the sumptuous large-scale prints present a black and white image of the artist himself. In each instance the central focus is obscured, overlain with a full-colour and seemingly irrelevant found image. On closer inspection these pairings quickly reveal Phillipson’s masterful grasp of composition and any number of visual puns. The found images offer conceptual cues, drawing parallels with the artist’s figure (both physical and psychological) that are at times humorous, at times more provocative.

There are plentiful references to masculinity, the 9 to 5 slog, human invention and excess. The obstruction of the body and particularly the face creates an almost fetishistic frustration for the viewer – expanses of skin are left bare while any recognisible feature is otherwise interrupted. Like a rudimentary form of censorship, we are distracted and protected, left intrigued and questioning.

As such, this is a collection that affords many repeated visits, each viewing more rewarding than the last. With Semblance Phillipson delivers an incredibly resolved body of work for such an early career artist: intelligent, polished and captivating.

Photoaccess is currently closed for the Christmas break, but the exhibition reopens on January 13th, continuing until January 31st. A must-see.

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