‘Melrose Park’ – MOP Projects, 2007, Artist Statement
Places can embody our emotions in a most peculiar and powerful way. For some time my work has focused on a sensation which Freud described as the uncanny. A disturbing subversion of the idea of home in which a brooding sense of unease is experienced in the domestic environment. If homeliness can typically be described as a sense of safety, comfort, belonging and the mundane then the uncanny is its opposite; a sense of danger, dislocation, anxiety and potentially a feeling that some supernatural presence has invaded the security of the everyday.
My work focuses on suburbia and the built environment and explores the contradictory layers of meaning that can be found reflected there; home and dislocation, safety and danger, belonging and being the outsider, culture and wildness, the known, visible, everyday, and the unknown, hidden forces that pulse beneath the surface. I photograph and later paint scenes containing a tension between these contradictory meanings, using the play of light and dark at night to create a sense of mystery and unease, casting the viewer in the role of the outsider. The way that any landscape is read is purely subjective, filtered through layers of personal experience, but what is interesting about the uncanny is that it is a sensation many people recognise and relate to. It can be a fearful and disconcerting experience but it can also be exciting, beautiful, enlivening; a connection to the primal in an otherwise mundane environment.
Melrose Park is the suburb I grew up in. It is directly across the Parramatta River from Homebush, skirted by the river, a golf course, Victoria Rd and the Wharf Rd factories. A tiny suburb of post war brick bungalows where one can sense a nostalgia for the idea of home that suburbia once ideologically embodied. There is also the presence of other forces, the river with its pungent smell of mangroves, its sense of remnant wildness and another people’s history far predating the red brick, and the factories which hum with industry even at night. Considering the concerns within my work it became apparent that my own childhood home would be an interesting place to explore.