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Lydia Pearson by Marian Drew

Lydia Pearson​

Marian Drew

2019 Digital Award

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About the artist

Marian Drew’s multidisciplinary practice of three decades includes photography, video, installation and public art. Drew is currently Adjunct Associate Professor at Griffith University. Her work is held in collections that include the John Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Museum of Photographic Art, San Diego, National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia and the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art. She represented Australia in the First Asia Pacific Triennial 1993, Pingyao International Photography Festival, China 2010 and the Photography Biennale, Photoquai, Paris 2011. Her monograph, Marian Drew Photographs and Video, was published by the Queensland Centre for Photography in 2006.

About the sitter

Lydia Pearson is a legend in Australian fashion. She and Pamela Easton formed the fashion label Easton Pearson, and for twenty-eight years took Brisbane fashion to the world. In 2009 a retrospective of Easton Pearson’s work was shown at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, and their collection is now housed with the Museum of Brisbane. The drawn background in this photograph was inspired by Indian miniature paintings of gardens, a reference to the hand crafted patterns and embellished fabrics of their oeuvre. The warmth and generosity of the sitter captured through long exposure and hand painted light. The ripped paper reminds the viewer that photographs are objects repositioned here as still life.

Judge's Notes

Marian Drew’s searching portrait of fashion designer Lydia Pearson has all the hallmarks of a still life but is patently a portrait, and an accomplished one at that. It’s one of the most refined examples in the Prize of the way in which an artist can remain true to their own visual language while simultaneously searching for an essential truth about their subject. All too often, a portrait can be drawn in a signature style in which the sitter can seem secondary to the artistic project. Not here, where the pictorial structure and devices of Drew’s image are an adroit match for what Pearson herself brings to the creative cutting table. Drew has long worked with studio constructed environments into which she dramatically inserts a figure or form of some kind, often in a transitory, oblique or surreal way, so her portrait of Pearson is as much about her as it is its subject – though neither the artist nor her sitter is made to ‘submit’ to the other. The crumpled paper that sculpts and forms the background could,
were it made from paint, be an equivalent of the wall to table modelling in a Cézanne still life; the arrangement of lemons adds a more strident colour note, straight out of Matisse’s playbook; and the hand-painted blue and white fabric design was likely inspired by a detail in a Mughal miniature. Accomplished artists like Marian Drew and designers like Lydia Pearson are invariably alert to the history of art and design.

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