Tracey Moffatt: The Travellers at Tyler Rollins Fine Art

Art Scene

Tracey Moffatt: The Travellers at Tyler Rollins Fine Art

In the exhibition, The Travellers, an alluringly subversive mix of 1940s film noir style and 21st century social commentary is presented by internationally renowned Australian artist, Tracey Moffatt. On view at Tyler Rollins Fine Art in a dimly lit gallery space with black walls, the show featured Passage, a photo-drama series of twelve large-scale photographs, and the single-channel video, Vigil.

The Arches (from the series Passage) 2017, digital C-print on gloss paper, 102 x 153 cm (40 ¼ x 60 ¼ in.), edition of 6 + 2AP, Courtesy of the artist and Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

The work debuted in the Australian Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale as part of Moffatt’s solo project, MY HORIZON,and comments on themes of migration, human trafficking and a quintessentially human desire for a better life. Moffatt’s legacy as a visual storyteller with the eye of a film director is ever-present in the photographs in Passage,which are set in a moody, ominous and defunct commercial port, populated by a handful of characters: a mysterious man, a mother and child, and a policeman.

Mother & Baby (from the series Passage) 2017, digital C-print on gloss paper, 102 x 153 cm (40 ¼ x 60 ¼ in.), edition of 6 + 2AP, Courtesy of the artist and Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

Moffat was first recognized for her cinematic talent when her short film, Night Cries,was selected for official competition at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival early in her career. Since then, her photographic and film work has received numerous awards and been exhibited at major institutions including the Guggenheim Museum, Dia Center for the Arts, and the Museum of Modern Art, to name a few.

Hell (from the series Passage) 2017, digital C-print on gloss paper, 102 x 153 cm (40 ¼ x 60 ¼ in.), edition of 6 + 2AP, Courtesy of the artist and Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

In Passage, a racially diverse cast of characters suggests and international or intercultural storyline that is never fully revealed; one that may stimulate curiosity, confusion or a sense of intrigue in viewers. Her characters are often shot alone against twilight skies with dusty, fading sunlight billowing out around ambiguous silhouettes. A woman and a baby alone on a dock as the sun goes down could mean many things. However, Moffatt’s intention with her character choices is to invite viewers to consider racial and class issues in relation to migration and immigration. This message is laid out clearly in the film, Vigil, which juxtaposes images of Hollywood stars gaping at contemporary images of boats packed with dark skinned migrants. The film was partially inspired by the tragic story of a boat of asylum seekers heading for Australia that sank in 2010.

Installation views of The Travellers at Tyler Rollins Fine Art, June 7 – August 24, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

However, the story that unfolds in the photo-drama series, Passage, seems to be bracketed within a pivotal moment of suspense, suggesting the melancholy and hope of distant horizons experienced by asylum seekers throughout human history. Moffatt says, “I want the 1940s era to read as ‘of the past’, but the storyline speaks about what is happening in the world today with asylum seekers illegally crossing borders. But I don’t want the images to read as a dated news story, because in fact the asylum-seeking storyline is not a new story: it is one as old as time. People throughout history and across cultures have always escaped and crossed borders to seek new lives.” 

Tracey Moffatt: The Travellers at Tyler Rollins Fine Art is on view through August 24, 2018.