Review: Jane Burton – In Other Bodies
Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne
until 3 May 2014
by Sara Sweet
Jane Burton is a Melbourne-based photographer whose work is known for being alluringly beautiful and obscurely repelling. Burton’s most recent series ‘In Other Bodies’, relies on traditional methods of photography. A pinhole camera is the chosen tool which can be described as a box with a small focal hole. Without the aid of a lens this technique restricts the capability of focus and framing, challenging each shot with careful consideration. Intuition, the subconscious and imagination are heavily relied upon as a second form of sight.
The scarcity of light that enters Burton’s camera allows multiple exposures to be made of her subject – the female figure. The body is manipulated and repeatedly exposed to reveal a ghostly and transparent entity. We see an odd creature that some may feel empathy towards. It awkwardly lays completely alone in angst of trying to exist within a cold and possibly threatening environment. Common households and backyards are set as the stage for Burton’s subjects, producing scenes that look peculiarly real yet hallucinatory.
The warm glow emanating from the body does not seem to dominate the forever creeping blackness that subtly dapples each image forming a gentle conflict of emotions. The viewer is encouraged to take a deeper look into the romantic narrative which is sheltering an undercurrent of gloomy emotions. Observers are granted secret permission into these uncovered scenes where the depicted female is slowly transitioning and smudging into her habitat. The beautiful and delicate looking woman is stripped bare of her protective clothing exposing her raw and fragile state. Her flesh and the textures beneath are becoming of the same materiality, separating the fine line between what is regarded artificial and organic.
The naked body is a common theme within Burton’s practice. She explains “I explored the subject that has been recurrent in my work since its inception – the naked female figure – her sexuality and psychology, and the landscape as the locus of her corporeal experience as well as symbolic expression of her psyche.” Burton makes reference to the intentions behind the series, “It is the experience of living in this world, in flesh and in spirit, which absorbs me, whether it is my own tangible experience of the present, or that of others or those before us. My photographs are an attempt to channel those sensations, perceptions and imaginings as a means to inhabit other histories, other landscapes, unfamiliar rooms and other bodies.”