Polly Borland is no stranger to the spotlight. With a successful international career that includes working with celebrities such as Nick Cave, Cate Blanchett and even Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Australian artist in known for her unique take on classic portraiture. Presenting images that are both beautiful and disturbing, Borland exposes feelings of self-doubt, exploring her fascination with people.
Her latest photographic series, Not Good at Human, at Sullivan+Strumpf stems from her feelings of displacement after moving to Los Angeles. “Louie my son and I had been having a few hard years adjusting to Los Angeles after moving there 2011, so I started taking photos as a way of recording his teenage years and to give us a project to work on together,” Borland explains. “The concept came when a friend described himself as not good at human… I thought this applied to my son and I, as our culture shock and the resulting inability to make human connections became profound.”
On working with her son, Borland describes the experience as quite erratic, “I had to be quick as Louie ran out of patience quite soon after we started taking photos each session. Also I couldn’t control him so it was quite unpredictable, the outcome.”
Given Borland’s extensive experience, it’s surprising to learn that Not Good at Human is her first solo show in Sydney. While the artist says that the where and the when was never really a factor in her career, she does reveal that “I realised recently Sydney is extremely important to me and so of course I wanted to show here and the opportunity arose so I went for it.”
We are lucky that she did. Not Good at Human offers Sydney audiences a glimpse into the strange and at times repulsive world that Borland creates. When asked what audiences could expect to see at the show, Borland’s response is succinct and to the point. “What it means to be human.”