TODD, Yvonne; Alice Bayke
In 2006 the Gallery commissioned a major tapestry from the Victorian Tapestry Workshop, produced in collaboration with New Zealand photographer Yvonne Todd. This wonderful, closely detailed work conveys, in a new medium, the artist's fascination with the artificial and uncanny aspects of the everyday, drawing inspiration from the staged qualities of commercial studio portrait photography.
Todd's work expounds a distinctively strong, if unnerving, view of New Zealanders and their relationship to global popular culture. Her main subject is women - young women in conventional portraiture poses - who stare at the viewer. The use of props such as wigs, false eyelashes, period dress and other accessories, creates a heightened sense of melodrama that is indescribably eerie and compelling.
The image chosen to be translated into tapestry was Alice Bayke from Todd's 'Sea of tranquility' series. This portrait depicts an unusual looking woman in an ornate dress - the dark background and Alice's preoccupied demeanour sharply contrast with notions of celebration evoked by her wedding-like attire. The representation of the ornate embroidery in Alice's dress echoes the elaborate depiction of textiles in historical tapestries, and Todd's kitsch and retro aesthetic is heightened and complemented by the tapestry medium's domestic associations. Carefully and laboriously woven, this work beautifully conveys the 'seamless, airless qualities' Todd also portrays in her photography.