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Liane Audrins and Babette Griep
The work of these two photographers - twenty nine 16 x 20 inch Cibachromes - makes a powerful statement on womanhood: subjective and objective views of social expectations, and inner experience.
Liane's work looks at exteriors. Two sets of six photographs face each other, enclosing the viewer. Acting the Role, in pinks and golds, depicts a young woman (Liane) performing to popular expectations in a gleaming, ultra-modern "dreamhome". She bakes, irons, vacuums, dusts, scrubs and finally, still apron-clad, stretches seductively on the bed. Satirical humour separates these works sharply from the everyday advertising imagery they mock. Liane wears pendulous plastic breasts, huge plastic bottom, and clear plastic mask with lips painted in a grotesque simile, a heart-shaped apron and, of course, high heels.
Playing the Role mimics its companion set, but with telling changes: in an old house, the "baking" has become plastic-wrap bread; the woman still smiles as she works, but her stance belies the smile. In the bedroom she is no longer seductive, but passively waiting. Slight underexposure tinges the coldly blue tones with a weary grey. The satire here is not so amusing.
The titles "Acting" and "Playing" make it clear that both are games - neither a woman's experience of self. That experience, the exploration of inner response to outer world, is the focus of Babette's work. While Liane's work undermines the notion of photographic "reality", Babette's never allows its existence. It rejects the "natural" and constantly makes evident the tricks that allow photography to move through the barrier of surface. These works are not for rapid assimilation. Subtle colours emanating from velvet-dark backgrounds seduce the viewer to give time and contemplation. Babette's manipulation of technique and statement, political in the context of the whole exhibition, present a very personal viewpoint on aspects of society, a woman's psyche and spirit.
The concept which unites Babette's work, for me, is power. Images such as Self Erasure show the power of mechanical, technological society over the intuitive female mode. Yet there is subtle ambiguity here, as the photograph is executed with superb control of technology.
For example: Alchemy depicts transformation. A woman (Babette) framed in a doorway is multiply exposed. In the most distinct image one hand, open and forward, receives; the other, turned, transmits. Projected onto her is a street of terrace houses – the exterior. Is she drawing strength from the public domain into her private world? Or vice versa? An explosion of light near her pelvis suggests the source of her transforming power.
Both these women photographers are engaged in the quest for a space from which women can speak their own experience, a space not already occupied by "malestream" culture. Liane is deconstructing the myths to clear the way; Babette is beginning to mark out the space. Both are working with a conceptual and technical sophistication that will ensure a continued public interest in their success.