Portray and Play


It takes a skilled eye for composition to recast a plastic bag as a thing of beauty. Inspired by Vermeer’s mastery of light and shadow, Dutch photographer Hendrik Kerstens mimics the medieval costumes worn by Vermeer’s subjects and replaces their angular headwear with the similarly shaped modern props of plastic buckets, tea towels and bags. Using his daughter Paula as his subject, Kerstens is known for creating photographic portraits combining a historical aesthetic with a strikingly modern sensibility.

Coinciding with QUT Art Museum’s inaugural holiday portraiture program, Draw It. Code It., Kerstens’ work is part of Portray and Play, an exhibition of diverse figurative work focused on people and faces.

Photography, painting and performance feature in the show that includes a series of 1980s oil sketches of Brisbane’s ‘village people’ by painter Richard Dunlop.

In a rare departure from his botanically themed works, Dunlop’s sunset-hued sketches softly contrast with the stark lighting of Kerstens’ photography.

Also showing are works by fellow Dutch photographer, Erwin Olaf. His meticulous images recall the pages of fashion magazines with a hint of David Lynch’s dark surrealism. “The opportunity to showcase the portraits by major Dutch photographers Hendrik Kerstens and Erwin Olaf came through a connection with the Kingdom of the Netherlands.” says QUT’s Sarah Barron. “They are touring these works and loaning them to QUT Art Museum especially for this exhibition.”

In response to the portraits by Kerstens and Olaf, QUT Curator Kevin Wilson has selected a number of portrait-based works sourced directly from QUT’s permanent collection. Works by Sidney Nolan, Chuck Close, Julie Dowling, Albert Tucker, Barbara Hanrahan, Adam Cullen and John Olsen are also part of the exhibition alongside the large-scale drawing, A Room of Facial De-Construction 2018, created during a performance in the gallery space by artist-in-residence Gosia Wlodarczak.

Portray and Play
QUT Art Museum
6 January – 4 February

Preview Words by Briony Downes