Iphigenia at Ilium and other stories by PJ Paterson

Iphigenia at Ilium, 2010, Enamel on perspex, 1200 x 1200

Iphigenia at Ilium and other stories

PJ Paterson

06 April to 25 April 2010

PJ Paterson’s latest exhibition, 'Iphigenia at Ilium and other stories', focuses on exploitation, gender roles and the place of narrative and art in reflecting societal values.

Drawing from diverse sources (such as classical Greek tragedy, biblical stories, art history and eco-feminist literature) Paterson seeks to depict societal roles and mythology attached to women through the ages. He uses painted images whose models are sourced from contemporary pornography to achieve this end.

In an increasingly-sexualized society, the use and distribution of pornography is still a subject of intense debate. Paterson exploits the power of these images, creating large-scale paintings, removing extraneous detail. He then develops context for the reading of these ambiguous figures, linking them to narratives from classical mythology. This process ‘transforms’ each model from reviled whore to classical heroine.

Paterson has given the central role in his series to the little-known Iphigenia, a figure from classical mythology. Iphigenia, murdered by her father to appease the goddess Artemis, is by turns innocent victim, priestess, daughter, martyr and malevolent goddess. The shifting perceptions and myths surrounding Iphigenia have parallels in the shifting perceptions and portrayals of women in art and wider society.

The classical references in the works are clearly stated, yet the source of the imagery is not. An illusion is thereby created around the images making them palatable to almost anyone viewing the works - even those who are fundamentally opposed to pornographic images. By contrast, informing viewers of the source of the imagery will make the works deeply offensive to some people. The questions raised are: what is the “right” way to look at these images? How does the knowledge of the source of the models affect the viewing of them? And finally: does art play a role in determining social values or does it merely reflect them?

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