Of Aboriginal origin and raised in a white family, Tracey Moffat (b.1960, Australia) grew up between two worlds. Her attraction to popular culture and exposure to film, photography, and painting while studying Visual Communication are reflected in her powerful narrative work, which moves between the pictorial and cinematic, the supernatural and real. Tracey’s work is not characterised by a particular aesthetic but by her experimentation with shooting and printing techniques, and her fragmentary narratives in Surrealist spaces which have deep emotional resonances.
Something More #1 (1989) tells the story of a young woman (represented by Tracey) exploring the world in her small town. The use of theatrical compositions, film frames, close-ups, and painted backgrounds points to the artificiality of the image, questioning the conventions of narrative. Portales (2019), a series of diptychs that are influenced by Edvard Munch and whose pictorial result evokes J. M. W. Turner, are based on real events that happened in the places where the photographs were taken. In The Airport, one of the diptychs, Tracey is again the main character of the scene. Tracey constructs her images by rigorously controlling the storytelling, costumes, and location, creating Surrealist worlds that are expanded with highly associative titles; this leaves the viewer open to the possibility of creating their own narrative.
Although Tracey’s work is frequently associated with the issue of race in Aboriginal Australia, her stories transcend the context and literalness of the image. Works such as Nice Colored Girls (1987) and Up in the Sky (1997) represent women full of strength; her landscapes and stage recreations are nowhere places. Both her early works, which are created by artificial intervention into the background, and her latest series, which features neutral settings, emphasise the ‘landscapes of the face’, creating an emotional space to connect with the other and the ‘human wounds that never heal’.