Julie Rrap is one of Australia’s leading feminist artists. Her multidisciplinary practice foregrounds and investigates the female body as the subject of art, often using her own body as a tool and disruptive object within this process. Since Rrap’s first exhibition in 1982, she has been consistently committed to exploring the role—and absence of roles—of women in the history of art.
Transpositions II comprises 100 photographs of works of art of female subjects by European male artists. It is easy to identify the artists of many of these portraits, however most of the women they represent remain nameless, or little known.
By bringing these portraits together en masse without explicit reference to the original artists, Rrap disrupts the traditional male privilege of the Western art historical canon and constructs an unsettling shift in power between the subjects and the contemporary viewer. When locked under the unwavering, collective gaze of these silent subjects, the viewer is forced to question their own complicity in the process of engaging with art. As the artist stated in 1996, ‘You can’t look at an image, especially an image of a woman, with innocent eyes’.
The iteration of Transpositions II for 21 x 10 at Arts West is a site-specific photo reproduction of Rrap’s 1988 ply-panelled work of 100 image reproductions. Though these repeated simulacrums imply a loss of quality for the original historical paintings, the contemporary digital proliferation of these subject-witnesses reminds us of the continued, and mounting, urgency to address issues of gender representation and diversity in museum collections.
Visit 21 x 10 at Arts West, Level 2