Yvonne Todd at Centre for Contemporary Photography

I attended the artist talks at the CCP last Saturday. I was particularly interested in Yvonne Todd’s work. I had previously seen Todd’s work for the first time at the NGV in 2010 during the Unnerved: The New Zealand Project. I remember being mesmerised by her portraits. Things haven’t changed since then! Her recent series shown at the CCP is just as fascinating. 

Serena Bentley curated the exhibition Wall of Seahorsel that is featured in Gallery 1 & 2 by the NZ photographer, Yvonne Todd. Seahorsel in Gallery 1 involves large scale portraits shot in studio where costumed models appeared to have been photographed while performing odd dance moves. Props like sand (see above), shells, & seaweed were used to convey a marine life theme throughout the works. The series alludes to commercial photography with a twist. I love how there is something absurd in the models’ postures. Todd explained she wanted to create a portrait series that is ambiguous and I think she has succeeded in combining mystery and theatricality in this series. She described her work as ‘deliberately obtuse’, a quote from one of her favorite authors, David Sedaris.

Senior Executive 
colour photograph, 130 x 105 cm, edition of 3 + 1 ap

In Gallery 2, The Wall of Man appears, at first glance, as a series of corporate portraits of senior executives. The truth is these men were recruited by the artist who placed an ad in the local paper. Todd references the stereotypical executives portraits. They look déja vu except for the odd fingertip missing here or someone wearing sunglasses with gradient lenses there. It can feel intimidating standing in Gallery 2, sandwiched between 2 walls of men staring back at you. Behind these highly staged portraits, there is a touch of humour that is characteristic of Todd’s portraiture.

Overall, Todd’s exhibition demonstrates not only how well she masters the craft of the lens and studio work, but also shows her ability to create works that suggest the familiar in a creative manner.