Phyllis Stein – 2022
Shaped mix media. Graphite on canvas, oil paint on canvas and on canvas board, found objects – galvanized iron, seedpod, red cedar, copper-plated nuts and bolts, domestic nylon brush. H110.3 x W52 cm
Classic pharaonic-like nude young figure on mummiform ground. It is presented in an hieratic sculptural pose. The shaped boundary is reminiscent of a dedicated recess, an enclave made especially for the figure within.
The headgear is positioned proud of the surface and displays an ovoid-shaped face devoid of human details painted on an attached canvas board panel. Semi-abstracted it could represent a sky. The curved shape is echoed in the upper boundary and also the seedpod necklace/gorget below which could indicate high office. The headgear is surmounted by a ‘plume’ similarly denoting rank. This panel is signed Phyllis Stein and is dated ’98’. Phyllis Stein is the nom de plume female alter ego, adopted on occasion, by the artist. This signature is loaded with multiple interpretations on many levels. The painted panel is attached to a ‘found’ old small sheet of galvanized iron. This was retrieved by the artist from the ruins of one of the boundary pubs outside Broken Hill in far west NSW.
The lower panel depicts a female nude drawn naturalistically with graphite in strong chiaroscuro; an obvious reference to the historic painterly style of tenebrism. A hand is projected through the legs of the figure from behind covering the genital area. It is colorized and painted realistically. The intrusive hand differs from the anatomic portrayal of the young female, it is of a much older person (showing signs of ageing) and, importantly, is of a dark skinned person. That it is of a another female is indicated by the manicured fingernails. The frontal intimacy illustrated alludes to a voyeuristic position forced on the viewer. But, is all art not voyeuristic?
The work is intentionally enigmatic offering no obvious readings