Exhibition: The Supers by Craig Tuffin

Exhibition: The Supers by Craig Tuffin

‘This series is one of short stories. Each image is a piece of the greater whole, one chapter in a larger novel that scrutinizes human potential. It seeks to depict those often unremembered, monastic faces of humanity as heroic versions of themselves.  

These fictional tableaux contain a common narrative that threads its way through the entire series. Yet it would be a mistake to think that each is an unfinished work when observed in isolation, or ambiguous without some contribution from the remaining images. 

By juxtaposing elements of Flemish symbolism with a rich dose of Hollywood bluster, we might begin to recognise the meek profile of our neighbour, hidden quietly within the formidable guise of a hero. With eyes averted from the lens, they neither recognise themselves as a creature of significance nor the presence of an audience.

The tension between rather melancholic surroundings and the valiant protagonist is deliberate. I hope that by carefully staging each photograph, as many questions are elicited as answers. As always, context is rooted within one’s own history.

In Somnis Veritas…In dreams there is truth…’

Tweed Regional Gallery until 1 May 2022

The Supers by Craig Tuffin.

‘Amidst lockdowns, border closures and a palpable sense of uneasiness as we all continue the battle with COVID-19, November quickly approaches and with it the opening of my second solo show at the Tweed Regional Gallery. 

After many years of working with essentially monochromatic photographic processes borne in the 19th century, this is my first exhibition of large-scale colour work. I’ve always felt that the physical photographic object is a unique and honest vehicle, belying its ability to be stretched, fractured and manipulated to the desires of the artist. I agree with Richard Avedon when he made his inflammatory statement “All photographs are accurate, but none of them are truth.”, that authenticity is determined by the photographer and not the photograph itself. However, I am also of the opinion that when the material “image-object” cultivated in-camera is the very thing that people might see and touch, it becomes virtuous regardless of context. 

My first show at Tweed Regional Gallery in 2014 titled “YAHNA GANGA” was an Indigenous Australian themed body of work. I used a photographic technique from 1851 where glass and metal plates were sensitised, exposed, developed and finally framed for display. For that show, a historic photographic paradigm was married to a cultural allegory. It’s therefore reasonable to assume that I have inadvertently slipped into another timeline to create this most recent arm of my contemporary practice, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. 

“THE SUPERS” is built upon an entirely different premise to all of my prior work. Here, a series of fictional short stories appear as almost life-sized quotidian worlds. The photographic frame represents an open window where we observe a tense but symbiotic relationship between colourful Hollywood protagonists and muted everyday lives. Each image is laced with symbolism. The movie projector has suddenly frozen in time and a fictious tableau remains with a veritable “Where’s Wally” of meaningful but discreet messages. No clue is given to the location of these and the task made more difficult with the banal naming of each work. They are entire screenplays of violence, love, loneliness, joy, melancholy, pride and courage now reduced to illegitimate film stills of a middle with no beginning or end. Tension is created by juxtaposing the ‘humanness’ of the champion and prosaic mise-en-scène with the glossy façade of Hollywood. 

As a boy, I clearly remember three purchase options advertised on the rear page of a comic book. You could order Sea Monkeys, a muscle-building program from Charles Atlas or X-Ray Specs. The last one particularly interested me, but the meagre pocket-money budget of a 10 year-old (and a keen sense of suspicion), precluded me from making any one of those purchases. Imagine though for a moment, that those x-ray glasses gave us the ability to see an individual’s true nature. Suddenly our quiet neighbour spending endless, unseen hours supporting a child with a disability, might materialise as Superman. A pregnant wife, stoic and courageous throughout the terrifying moments of a COVID19 lockdown, now appears as Wonder Woman. I toyed with the concept of using those “old-timey” photographic methods I’m so familiar with, but it just didn’t make sense. It had to be in colour and it had to be big. 

I have to admit, the first stages of hypnagogic sleep became a veritable minefield of creative ideas and impossible scenes. Elephants and talking rabbits would randomly chat to Jan Van Eyck about Flemish symbolism and new taco recipes as slumber snaked its lithe fingers through my twilight consciousness. But as might be expected, a notepad next to the bed and a review of that absurd and hastily scribbled text the next morning, would bring some lucidity back to those fantastical non-LSD-laced Sergeant Pepper-like dream clips of the night before. The good news is that some of the less outrageous ideas did stick, and as you will see during the show, carefully made their way into the work’. Craig Tuffin.

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David Tatnall is an Australian fine art photographer & editor of View Camera Australia.

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