Gerwyn Davies is a photographer and costume maker from Brisbane, Australia. Represented by Spiro Grace Art Rooms, Davies’ latest solo exhibition Subtropics gives tribute to Australia’s small town tourist monuments through equally loud and absurd attire, and lowbrow humour.
Words by Mel Fletcher
are so awkward and weighty there is an ability to freely move about the space and you feel a bit sorry for them and their uselessness.
MF: Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or news you would like to share?
GD: I have new work in two shows with .M Contemporary coming up in Sydney over the next couple of months, one in Bondi and another in Woollahra.
Words by Mel Fletcher
Images credited to photographers mentioned
rebuilding it from scratch, playing with how you can playfully construct and perform identity in a multitude of ways. It was never about revealing my own physical self underneath, as the face then becomes the main focus. I am interested in reinvention and allowing the materials to then communicate their own meaning without me giving a big grin for the camera. Whilst at their very core they are self-portraits, the whole process is an establishing and building up of another identity, so by the time it gets to capture they feel like an entire other.
MF: What are the decisions behind the materials you use?
GD: I am drawn to the bright and shiny. I generally have a vague idea of the colour palette I want to work with or overarching form of the costume. I then try and aimlessly wander and select the materials as automatically as possible. I am interested in using readymade materials as they have their own functional forms that are fun to distort and manipulate. It makes the construction process much more exciting and unexpected. A lot of work is surrendered in this phase as some materials don’t participate ie. they aren’t as malleable as I need them to be or the shape they offer up reveals itself as completely hideous. I have been incorporating more post production in to this process too so digitally constructing has had its own set of challenges but allows me to extend out the work even further.
Prawn (Subtropics) 2016 © Gerwyn Davies
Tropics (subtropics) © Gerwyn Davies
MF: The subjects or characters in your Subtropics series directly reference their backgrounds, more so compared to your previous works. What is the importance of these landmarks to you and how do you believe the characters reinforce this?
GD: I have been living in the hills behind Byron Bay and have become increasingly obsessed with the town of Ballina and its tourism. I am fascinated by the way tourist spaces are constructed by building loud monuments and painting tacky murals and declaring them a place to stop. Universally, tourist sites are put together like this, but small town Australia throws it all together with such excess. I think the ethos of it is “the tackier the better” and the sense of irony has disappeared in there somewhere. I am drawn to this idea of celebrating the lowbrow and wanted to make work in these kind of spaces with their glistening subtropical spectacles. There is a mimicking of these highly constructed costumed characters and the highly constructed spaces they are in. They almost seem native to them, their own gaudy habitats. There is a futility to them too. Because these costumes
Poodle (subtropics) 2016 © Gerwyn Davies
QLD © Gerwyn Davies
MF: What is the typical process of creating your artwork?
GD: Typically, it starts with the material. I trawl dollar stores, Asian supermarkets and battle the ladies at Spotlight for the shiniest and most vibrant materials I can find. It’s a process of sitting with whatever I can source for a while and wrangling in to new forms before it is worn and shot. Originally, I was working in a basic studio which evolved into building minor sets within that space which then led to leaving the studio altogether. There is an increasing amount of time spent in post-production as I am compositing the spaces I photograph the costumes in. The newer work is an extension of that making process.
MF: Is there a reason the figures are faceless throughout your works? And was this a conscious decision?
GD: I think it makes them more universal. I was interested in shrouding the physical self and