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Amy Sheppard – Ascension by Beth Mitchell

Amy Sheppard - Ascension​

Beth Mitchell

2019 Performing Arts and Music Award​

Proudly supported by
Lister Family Foundation
About the artist

Beth Mitchell is an underwater fine art photographer. Her unique style is created by setting up elaborate underwater sets, using anchors to hold objects in place, to form the backdrop to her portraits.  She then spends hours shooting underwater, directing her subjects so she gets the particular “other worldly” effect she is after. The images are seemingly idealistic, and fluid, perfected by a polished technique, yet they whisper deeply into contemporary societal dialogue. She says: “My images explore and echo classic and contemporary art themes, as well as stories of strong Australian female achievers. I am emotively captivated by the underwater environment.”

About the sitter

Amy Sheppard is one of Brisbane’s best known musicians. Her band, Sheppard, shot to international fame with their 2014 single ‘Geronimo’, with three weeks at number 1 in Australia, top 10 across Europe and a platinum for over one million sales in the US. Recently, Amy Sheppard has gained a massive following for her unfiltered and honest approach to body image.  Dubbed the ‘Kiss My Fat Ass’ movement, the group has turned this powerful message into a song. Mitchell says of Sheppard: “Look closely at this woman of strength, talent and unique beauty. She’s cold, her skin has goosebumps and yet she is poised in a goddess-like levitation. She embodies her influential stance with humility and ease. I’m captivated by the commanding use of her fame earned through musical success. Amy leads by example, propelling women towards a new notion of true beauty. Truth isn’t “perfect”, a world where diversity and acceptance reign will allow us to bask in the freedom of a new kind of perfection. I crave that world; we’re working on it. Maybe we can be at peace when we get there.”

Judge's Notes

Beth Mitchell has found a way of depicting Amy Sheppard in a moment of sublime metamorphosis, rising slowly up through the water to touch its surface. Her hair and gown are pulled by the currents, folding over and around the singer’s body as if hammered, in some passages, like beaten gold. Hellenistic sculpture – think of the Parthenon Marbles – was celebrated for its ability to create ‘wet look’ drapery, while Mitchell has managed it effortlessly, transforming Sheppard into an ascendant goddess in the process. A brilliant young star and a celebrated role model on her way up! But this is a far from effortless portrait, hard won after hours spent in the goose bump inducing deep end. What results is an otherworldly portrait of a singer who is, paradoxically, admired for being so grounded. The ‘Ascension’ in Mitchell’s title is an illuminating addition to her take on Sheppard. While it’s an arcane distinction best known to religious scholars, it’s not an Assumption (of the Virgin Mary) it’s an Ascension (of Christ into Heaven). Put simply, one was reliant on the power of Christ to be raised up to Heaven, while the other raised Himself up. (I can’t help but suspect the difference was apparent to both artist and sitter.) I wasn’t initially sure that I wanted to be lured in by the glossy siren song of this work but it kept calling me back. I soon realised that Mitchell had created a pitch perfect embodiment of Sheppard’s grace on earth, underwater.

Chris Saines CNZM 
Director, QAGOMA 
Brisbane Portrait Prize Judge, 2019

"My images explore and echo classic and contemporary art themes, as well as stories of strong Australian female achievers."