Tracey Moffatt 'Up in the Sky #3' offset print 1997. Image courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

Tracey Moffatt
Born 1960, Brisbane, Queensland
Up in the Sky 1997

 

Tracey Moffatt’s Up in the Sky series is comprised of 25 offset prints. The images use amateur actors in baron, forlorn settings. They have a distinctly Australian feel and the interactions between black and white characters, implies a commentary on Australian race relations between Indigenous and non Indigenous people. However the artist is quick to deny a specific narrative intention, instead saying “people can read into it what they want”.[1]

The non linear and unspecific narrative of Up in the Sky is an important aspect of the viewer’s relationship with the work, as curator Glenn Scott Wright says,

“There is a narrative element in the work which is so open ended….you can construct your own narrative when looking at the work.”[2]

Each image looks like a still from a completed film or a documentary we are unable to see. The images that Moffatt shows us imply a story, rather than tell a story, leaving the gaps to be filled by our own knowledge and histories. When describing the set up of the images she say,

“…you know when you are driving in the countryside and you see an old house, maybe not an abandoned house, its like spinning a story around a location, imagining who lives in the house, making up a story. So I would find a location and then spin a yarn around it.”[3]

Moffatt points out that her work is not specifically Australian but universal, implying that the images speak to people and places from all cultures. While the landscape she draws from is“a surreal landscape that has long been central to the Australian mythos”[4], the artist was inspired by the aesthetic of Paolo Pasolini’s film Accettone, a 1961 neorealist classic of Italian cinema. Moffatt’s images, like Pasolini’s film, offer the viewer a window into a grim reality shown in a literal harsh light.

“That extreme Italian light is like Australia…that is (hard) to work with, it is very harsh (and) you get extreme shadows. It was really the look of (Pasolini’s) film that inspired these pictures.”[5]

 


[1] Moffatt, Tracey Up in the Sky: Tracey Moffatt in New York, a film by Jane Cole, Ronin films 1999
[2] Wright, Glenn Scott, Up in the Sky: Tracey Moffatt in New York, a film by Jane Cole, Ronin films 1999
[3] Moffatt, Tracey Up in the Sky: Tracey Moffatt in New York, a film by Jane Cole, Ronin films 1999
[4] Palmer, Daniel & French, Blair, Twelve Australian photo artists Piper Press, Annandale, N.S.W. 2008. P.109
[5] Moffatt, Tracey Up in the Sky: Tracey Moffatt in New York, a film by Jane Cole, Ronin films 1999