Impeccably pristine images in white nuances and one of her favourite models, Lauren – a girl with albinism she’s worked with for the last fifteen years –, dominate the walls of Petrina Hicks’ exhibition at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia in Melbourne. On view until March 29 of next year, Petrina Hicks: Bleached Gothic is the first major survey exhibition in Australia of the renowned artist, who switched commercial photography for a more fine art approach while still exploring the boundaries between the two.
Spanning from 2003 to 2019, more than forty photographs and video works by Hicks are presented in her biggest solo show to date, which includes artworks from some of her most famous series, like The Unbearable Lightness of Being (2015), The Shadows (2014), Every Rose Has its Thorn (2010) or The Descendants (2008). Despite the differences between their themes and approaches, it’s easy to recognize the unique gaze that has captured them all, which mixes commercial photography – she was mainly working in advertising when she decided to pursue a more artistic-focused career – and a more personal, ‘auteur-like’ approach.

Highly influenced by art history and mythology – especially Greek –, the characters in her images are usually women, girls and animals – from snakes to birds, to wolfs and Sphynx cats. For example, in one photograph, a white snake coiling around a pale arm evokes biblical notions of purity and the myth of Eve. In others, aged ceramic vessels or marble busts refer to Ancient Greece, whose characteristically all-white aesthetic – even though it’s been proven that both buildings and sculptures were originally painted very colourfully – is a major influence in Hicks’ work. But not only that: Petrina combines familiarity and strangeness, intimacy and distance, as her portraits look honest and straightforward but cold and aseptic at the same time.
The exhibition Petrina Hicks: Bleached Gothic is on view until March 29, 2020, at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Federation Square, Flinders St &, Russell St, Melbourne.
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