Kindle & Swag
Deborah Paauwe was born in Pennsylvania in the United States in 1972 and moved to Adelaide, South Australia in 1985. She graduated from the University of South Australia with a Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts) in 1994, and in 2000 completed an MA Fine Art (Combined Media) at the Chelsea College of Art & Design, The London Institute, England, courtesy of an Anne & Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship, awarded in 1999. Represented by Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide and Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, Paauwe has held a number of solo and group exhibitions both in Australia and internationally. In 1996 her work was included in the group exhibition Hearsay: New photo artists at the Australian Centre for Photography (ACP), Sydney and again at the ACP in 2001 in The Syntax of Style. During 1997, her work featured in The Measured Room at the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia and in 1999 in the Moët & Chandon Touring Exhibition. In 2000 her work toured nationally in the Monash University Gallery exhibition Telling Tales: The child in contemporary photography. Paauwe's photographs were also included in the exhibition Photographica Australis at the Sala del Canal de Isabel II in Madrid as part of the ARCO 2002, which toured Asia throughout 2003-04. Paauwe also participated in the Adelaide Biennale of Australian Art in 2004. A monograph, Deborah Paauwe: Beautiful Games, written by Wendy Walker, was published in 2004. Paauwe currently lives and works in Adelaide.
For almost ten years, Deborah Paauwe's large colour photographs have focused on the female form, captured at various stages of youth. Her models range from girls to women in their late teens and seemingly only slightly beyond. Always, however, their bodies are cropped, usually neck to knee, so that their faces, individualising features and personality are obscured. Instead, we must scrutinise body shape, clothing, skin and hair for detail and information. What is found often punctures the initial sweet appearance of these works - tiny cuts, bruises, rashes or deep pores unsettle. These are the 'sparks of contingency' that compel our gaze and break through the mannered gestures. The photographs in this exhibition extend many of the artist's conceptual concerns, which combine youth, the female body, sexuality, identity, power relations, femininity, fantasy and voyeurism. Although the viewer can never be sure, Paauwe occasionally appears in her work, introducing performativity and issues of imaging the self as subject. In some respects, the work can be seen as a mirror of Paauwe's own memories. This current body of work presents a secret world shared by two women, whose closeness, coyness and innocence appears slightly at odds with their age. Their petting suggests a mutual privacy and underlines Paauwe's interest in capturing moods of both exposure and concealment. Carefully directed postures, hands, and falling hair imply both moments past and the pleasure of posing. The soft palette of skin tones and lacey vintage dresses against the stark, black background also gives a heightened sense of theatricality, conjuring the intimacy and unknowability of the darkroom of the images' origin.
© Daniel Palmer, 2004