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Imaging the Filmic Gloriana: The Mask of Elizabeth
25 July - 5 August
25 July – 5 August 2017
Tuesday – Friday 11am to 5pm,
Saturday 12pm to 4pm
…a meditation on regaining authorship of one’s own story.
The purse-sized gouache miniature portraits by Janita Ryan are a meditation on regaining authorship of one’s own story.
They are based upon 16 movie stills of actors playing Elizabeth I, the Queen who rose to become one of histories most inspiring leaders despite being born a bastard, labeled a rebel spinster, thrown into the Tower of London, the survivor of both sexual and domestic abuse and being the beneficiary of privilege and victim of adversity.
These portraits contemplate how dramaturges and wardrobe departments have represented and misrepresented this feminist icon and contemplate how in real life she became empowered to be the author of her own destiny and story whilst others conspired to corrupt and usurp it.
We speed read faces, scanning them with a type of visual shorthand as we skim over the chiaroscuro shadows, allowing our gaze to shoot towards the highlights. Details in shadows recede, failing to register, allowing the stronger highlights to dictate the reading of the image. As in life, those when the loudest voices dominate the story telling whilst those with the quieter ones recede and become muted by the shadows.
If the devil is in the detail then the devil screams in these highly detailed studies that impede a speed-read and demand a more multifaceted reading of one woman’s story as told by 16 others.
The portraits are housed in over the top, highly ornamental resin frames embellished with baroque arabesques and objects both referring to the cinema and the reign of Elizabeth I.
Imaging the Filmic Gloriana/The Mask of Elizabeth
Aerial shot of London skyline featuring Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, London Eye.
Pan shot of people laughing as they disembark from a cab, collect their luggage and climb a flight a stairs to the Hotel.
Camera pans up hotel exterior and zooms through 2nd floor bedroom window to
REBECCA, a tall, jittery, disheveled looking woman, whose marriage has just collapsed. She sits chain smoking at a desk painting a miniature portrait of Josephine Bonaparte. Her paints rest on an invoice for a portrait of Napoleon, to be featured on the cover of a historical fiction novel, but it is his toothless sugar loving ex-wife that interests Rebecca.
Cell phone rings. Rebecca answers, depressed empty tone to her voice
REBECCA: Max, oh Max, I’m struggling. I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m not who my ex. “…….” Zed, claims I am. I’m lost. “……” I don’t know who I am.
MAX: Heaps of people go cactus when relationships end Bec.
REBECCA: I’m sitting here doing portraits of Josephine Bonaparte and wondering who the hell she really was. Did she really collapse when Napoleon left her? Or was it his PR spinning a tale? Women’s stories always get sooooooo overridden.
Some years later
Max and Rebecca, who is now much better groomed, sit on a verandah in outback Queensland. She pulls out a chocolate box from her purse, opens it and takes from it 16 miniature gouaches of different actors playing Elizabeth 1.
MAX: Why paint these Bec?
REBECCA: I guess they’re a chance for me to contemplate one of the many women who gave me courage when I was going down the gurgler. After all, she is such a feminist icon. A woman who was born a bastard, labeled a rebel spinster, thrown into the Tower of London, survivor of both sexual and domestic abuse, the beneficiary of privilege and yet the victim of great adversity. From all of this she rose to be one of histories most illustrious leaders. I mean, she really became empowered to be the author of her own destiny and story whilst others conspired to corrupt it.
Dissolve to white.