Artist’s Statement – Maria Gravias
I have an abiding interest in, and respect for philosophy, aesthetics and the metaphysical domain—the complex ideas embedded in differing world views and how we choose to navigate our lives in line with those belief systems. For instance, in traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi is a world view centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. ‘Wabi' is a mindset that appreciates humility, simplicity and frugality as routes to tranquility and contentment. ‘Sabi’ has come to communicate a deep and tranquil beauty that emerges with the passage of time. In line with this aesthetic the aim of my photographic practice is to invite the viewer to contemplate and meditate on the extraordinary beauty and simplicity of ordinary objects.
The search and acquisition of objects for my still life photographs, (from personal collections, antique bazaars and opportunity shops), is intrinsic to my artistic process. Finding pre-loved possessions for inclusion in my still lifes gives those static, inanimate objects a personal history. I try to animate the inanimate to convey a narrative about their owners. The concept of reuse of objects is also embedded in wabi-sabi—the aesthetic that is sometimes described as one of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. We often dismiss the banal and my photographic imagery iconises those everyday objects and elevates them to command respect from the viewer.
My work also references the art historical and pays homage to the long-standing, respected tradition of the still life genre. In recent times I have concentrated on the ‘Tondo’ format (a Renaissance term used to describe a circular work of art). Seventeenth century Dutch still life painting is my principal source of inspiration and I have spent many hours over many decades contemplating works of art in museum collections all over the world. My photographs embrace and alchemise the conventions and practices of this genre to make visually engaging and contemporary photographic art. Selected objects are arranged theatrically and as advantageously as possible to capture the viewer’s attention. Seventeenth century Dutch still lifes were imbued with symbolism—and there were sophisticated ciphers that the educated and cultured viewer was expected to decode. This genre offered opportunities for both moral contemplation, academic and even scientific study. Fruit and vegetables, for example, generally symbolise the ephemerality of existence—life and beauty are fleeting. My artistic goal is to capture and convey that ephemeral beauty.
Maria holds a Bachelor of Education from the University of Canberra and a Post Graduate Degree from the Australian National University’s School of Art. She has exhibited at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne; Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Canberra Museum and Art Gallery and Bitumen River Gallery, Canberra; and Bega Regional Art Gallery, Bega. She worked in the visual arts sector for the duration of her career - as principal educator at the National Portrait Gallery for a number of years and the Australian Government’s Arts portfolio managing high profile funding programs focusing on touring visual arts exhibitions across Australia.
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