There is something about Monique Beebe’s avatar-centric images that never fails to attract my attention. Her work has a unique blend of art, narrative, post-processing skill, and layering that allows her to create single-frame stories that carry a depth of mean that demands the attention of the eye and mind.
This is once again the case with Images of Decay, which opened at Mareea Farrasco’s IMAGOLand (Gallery 1b – use the teleport disk at the landing point) on September 2nd. Here Moni offers a selection of images with a central theme which wraps itself in layer of possible interpretation – whilst also allowing the observer to view them as intriguing studies in the use of light, colour and balance to present a captivating self-portrait.
The title of the exhibition – Images of Decay – might sound a little off-putting, but as noted, it can be taken on a number of levels. Predominantly offered in dark dark tones and colours – burnt umber, burgundy reds, shades of black and grey, these are intentionally “dark” images, each piece post-processed to add a rusting, metallic look to it, a discolouration that marks face, breast, arm, and so on. In some of the images, it is highly pronounced, in others it is more of a mottling. In one or two cases, due to the use of projected light and post-processed filters, it is subtle enough to give the impression of tattooing.
As a first interpretation, this filtering / colouring might be seen as simple expressive colour play on the part of the artist. On another, and taking the title of the exhibition into consideration, they might be might be seen as experiments in giving a sense of age / the passage of time to the images themselves. It might also be taken as a reflection of life itself, and the undeniable fact that we are all doomed to grow older, age, whither, die and decay; that the beauty / vitality we have today is actual impermanent – but in being so, it is also part of life’s greater cycle.
This latter layer narrative is perhaps most clearly seen within the trio of images Girl, Lady, Woman, the idea of aging is clearly represented in the images as we take each in turn. So so might they also speak to how society can perceive women as they age, and our beauty is seen as fading over time (or to put it another way, decaying with the passage of time).
There is an emotional content present within these pieces that adds additional layers to them. Many either directly or indirectly draw attention to the subject – to Moni’s – eyes, be it through the use of masks or eye shadow to highlight them, or face masks bubble gum or even the wrap of a turban to obscure other parts of the face or the eyes themselves. In this way, we are drawn to each image and inhabit the emotions we might perceive as being present within them. Elsewhere, this emotional content is transmitted through the use of pose and lighting.
In places, this emotional element speaks directly to the idea of decay and the passage of time, in others, in other, the idea of decay emphasises the emotional content of a piece. Take, for example, Innocence and Light of Sadness. Within them the colours of decay do much to convey the essential emotion within them – the loss of innocence if the former, and the pain of sadness in the latter.
Taken individually as as a whole, this is another richly engaging exhibition by Moni, one that should not be missed.
- IMAGOLand main landing point (Broken Mountain, rated Moderate)