OD Photo Prize 2023 | Judges Pick
“The Seven Circuits of a Pearl takes so many facets and mixes them together in a poignant, moving, intelligent and informed way creating a beautiful blend of photographic skill and emotion. The project is highly personal blending photographic and mixed media which beautifully aligns the artists journey from her Greek home to Australia, with the journeys of her late father and his life as a sailor, and the journey of the treasured pearl. Her use of archival reflection places the pearl at the heart of this project which allows her to explore not only relationships within her own family, but that of empire and marine ecology creating a wide reaching and intelligent outcome.” – Tracy Marshall-Grant
Selected by Tracy Marshall-Grant
Arts Director, Curator & Producer
Ioanna Sakellaraki [b.1989] is a Greek visual artist and researcher currently working across Australia and Europe. Her work investigates the relationship between collective cultural memory and fiction. Drawing emphasis on the photographic object, process and encounter, she explores the boundaries of a primitive, yet futuristic vision of places and people.
Artist Statement | “The Seven Circuits of a Pearl is a photographic and mixed media odyssey through the ruinous discoveries in my personal family history and the one of Australia’s pearling disasters exploring how witnessing through interrupted material in the archive can enable a series of correspondences between personal and collective histories of loss and their making into new temporal and material forms. The story begins with my relocation to Australia and my exploration of the faraway Western coast, where the Indian Ocean meets the Great Sandy Desert, and where for thousands of years, pearls have been treasured, sought, bought and stolen.
Like another living vessel of refracted time and memory, the archive of the journeys for pearls sails me back to the journeys of my late father as seen through his own personal archives during his time as a sailor in the faraway lands he explored. Driven by curiosity and captivated by the trove of an image of a woman with a pearl necklace found in them, I begin the journey towards the painful discovery of my father’s ex-wife and mother of a half-brother I have never met. A journey of multiple paths of deception, the topology of the plot borrows from the archetype of the seven-circuit Cretan being suggestive of the different narrative twists and crossings until the moment of discovery; the final central nucleus of the story.
Maritime disasters, archeological, personal and missing evidence, become the thread between visual and textual material from museum collections, journals, diaries and memoirs researched, and further re-imagined though the mixed-media works produced, aiming at creating an interrelational space amongst the fragments of a larger narrative progressing from an investigative to a more metaphorical and esoteric resolution. In a parallel way, I reflect on the multifaceted and multimodal exchange, trade and commodification of pearls in relation to broader histories of empire, labour management and marine ecology, questioning not only whether humans exist in relation to history, but instead how to access and write the history of this relationship in contemporary art as an emergent response to a personal and cultural heritage in crisis.” — Ioanna Sakellaraki
IMAGE DESCRIPTION | This is an image of Torres Strait Islander kids on a dinghy with the intervention of a fig tree with pearls integrated on it. The work overall reflects on human relationships to the sea and the consequent cultural worlds, historical narratives and set of practices built around geographies and ecologies of the ocean through centuries. It furthermore attempts to build a dialogue between how First Australians were seen by their colonists gazing at them from their big ships, in search of the New World, but also how the natives gazed back at them from their canoes, and the significance laying behind this ‘asymmetrical’ exchange of perspectives.
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