En Pointe

Catalogue Essay . Pretty Ballerina


  Still Image Gallery 2010






























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The Space in Between

Dark elements dominate the traditional narrative thread of Matwiejew’s most recent body of work,
Broken Spell.
Wide universal concerns are voiced regarding ecology and human relationships. The connection
between humans and nature is grandiosely considered, challenging the perception of human power
over the environment. This connection is juxtaposed with the imaginative and organic elements
characteristic of Matwiejew’s practice. In this way, the free-flowing sensual nature of Matwiejew’s
images and film confronts literal examination.
Matwiejew successfully locates a space between reality and supposition as the jarring inconsistency
of raw production techniques, combined with images of natural disaster, create a surreal yet palpable
experience. This complex blurring of thresholds is a space that can be likened to Jacques Derrida’s
third space in discussion of his concept of différance.1 Différance provides access to a space between
meaning and divisibility, a space that exists between and beyond binary terms such as the present and
the future, or the good and the bad. It is a play between two signifiers that differ, opening a space for
what they represent as well as what they defer. It sets up an open temporal dimension, thus creating
a constant transition and negotiation of the in-between; the third space. Matwiejew focuses on this
gap, this temporal deferral, where signifiers are both attracted and opposed to each other, beyond
reality and the proliferation of our information age. An immeasurable space asserting substance,
beauty and a depth of character is assumed.
The photographs and film are presented in a collage construction. The images are synthetic. The flow
of film and the construction of single images are manipulated and fragmented, yet these images
resonate with a foreseeable reality that relates to our surrounding environment. This cut and paste
aesthetic has a long history in the arts from Picasso to Duchamp to Musique Concrete, and finds
an extension in Matwiejew’s digital paintings.
Matwiejew’s process consists of images photographed, collated and scanned onto a screen, then
altered, cut and blended with other imagery with the use of a ‘digital brush’.2 The artist’s brush attends
to each individual pixel in a painstaking method for altering colour and brightness. The resultant works
are somewhere between a photograph and a painting. Matwiejew’s training and earlier career as a
painter is evident within her organic process of creation. The reinvention and transition of her practice
has been informed by pertinent personal concerns and issues such as ancestry, sexuality and the
environment. For the last six years she has worked exclusively with digital media. The intuitive and
instinctive approach to her work however remains the same, with a heartfelt sincerity of emotion.
This emotion has been deconstructed and detached in this process however, distancing the immediacy
and directness of contact, allowing for a more channeled and concentrated approach that creates
a tension of expression within the work. Matwiejew brings to the medium a perspective free from
technical training.
The almost clumsy jump from scene to scene in her film Broken Spell alludes to a third space.
Amidst this clunk an inadvertent rhythm develops. The unconventional blending and splicing imbues
new readings outside of the storyline of love and environmental disaster. The imagery is flawed in
a conventional aesthetic sense, yet it is this very aspect that enriches her work by leaving open a
realm for interpretation and deeper contemplation; a space for further consideration. Described
categorically as a form of digital surrealism,3 the surrealistic elements in this work are nonetheless
anchored in earthbound concerns for potential disaster.
Translation then becomes the mode of expression. To translate is to turn from one language to another,
to change form, condition or nature, to transfer. This translation occurs from the frozen to the flowing
movement of time expressed in the production of film and photography, from a painter’s experience
to a digital format. It embraces new technology, creating a dialogue with digital culture4 whilst
acknowledging the computerisation of society and culture.5 The film sits alongside images hung on
the wall. This translation from one medium to the next stimulates interaction with the sonic while
challenging our preconceptions of how to receive particular forms of artworks.
Broken Spell, is conveyed in a hybrid advanced technological format that urges us also to reconsider
our relationship to nature, raising our awareness of our original and essential symbiotic relationship
to the earth and universe. Confusion, fear and excitement engulf the eye. Extreme seasonal changes
and natural disasters unfold as the change in mood is altered constantly. Darkness is contrasted
starkly to the vivid whiteness of an icy environment. The recurrent image of the black Russian dress,
symbolising death, reappears from Matwiejew’s earlier film Arabesque suggesting grave danger to the
couple portrayed in the film and photographs. This sense of danger is offset by sonic accompaniment.
The threatening howling of the wind, crashing waves, ice melting, lightning and stormy weather is
alternated with lighter more reassuring sounds of chimes, birds, crickets and cows, creating yet another
opposition of experience. In the midst of turmoil the sun is still slightly visible. In the lighter moments
depicted in the last scene of the film and in the work Tears, time is slowed and distilled. Autumn leaves
are used as a symbol of rejuvenation and renewal, as an underlying beauty is extrapolated and resolves
the turbulence of accompanying images.
Matwiejew’s practice continues to evolve as her voice and vocabulary expand, and her experiments
set her work apart with différance.

© Rachael Watts 2008                                                                                                                                                                    

1 See Royle, Nicholas, (2003) Jacques Derrida, Routledge, London, Chapter 7 ‘Différance’, p71–83 a discussion from Derrida’s
1968 essay ‘Différance’.
2 Discussion with Norbert Loeffler lecturer of Visual Art Theory and History at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, May 2008.
3 Interview with Magda Matwiejew, April 2008.
4 Trend, David (2001), Reading Digital Culture, Blackwell Publisher, Oxford, p1.
5 See Tofts, Darren, (2005), Interzone: Media Arts in Australia, Craftsman House, Fishermans Bend.

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