at China Heights Gallery in Surry Hills, New South Wales, Australia
27 July-11 August 2018

“Reflected” aims to challenge the viewer’s preconceived ideas of gender through the medium of photographic self-portraits cut and re-assembled to reveal new figures that are unrecognizable as male or female. Genderless.

Steve Tierney hopes to influence viewers to question how gender is conformed and how society views the body. As well as asking people to think about their own place. What are the things we hide and what do we feel comfortable revealing about ourselves?

The result is a series of nine abstract portraits. Each with an almost weightless quality to their poses. The silhouette type figures appear as though other worldly, beyond human. Leaving the viewer intrigued and wanting to know more. To “go into” and understand the image.

The artist explains his process: “In the past, I have made collages using photography cut from magazines of the 40s and 50s. There is an ironic humour and naivety in the stereotypes that exist in this era that appeals to me. A very clear difference between men and women and how they should present themselves.

“My artworks are often an analysis of my own self and identity. In order to express personal thoughts and emotions, I tend toward images of women rather than men. Men are portrayed as overtly masculine. They drive fast cars. They smoke cigarettes and shoot animals for sport. Images of women reveal a vulnerability that I’m more attracted to and identify closer with.

“When I use an image of a female in my work, I’m trying to expose a deeper emotion from within myself. I am attracted to the female form, yet I never use a woman’s body for the sake of creating ‘aesthetically beautiful’ images. I simply relate to the feelings expressed in photographs of women, more so than men.

“This new series was an opportunity to insert myself into my work. By collaborating with a photographer and making myself the subject matter, I was able to express my own emotions directly and far more powerfully than if I had chosen to use a model. It was confronting and challenging at first, but the challenge was not in shooting the photos or finding the confidence or motivation to pose naked. I was more fearful of how the work would be received, and the reactions of my peers and friends in revealing such a deeply personal reflection of a feminine self.”

Tanja Bruckner adds: “I’ve always been a fan of Steve’s collage practice, but what really attracted me to this idea was being able to use the gendered stereotypes so prevalent in fashion and fuck with them. Working in the commercial photo industry it’s only now that I’m seeing a more balanced representation of women and men. We’ve got a long way to go, but it’s long overdue that gendered narratives be more inclusive. For so long we’ve told women how to look and how to feel. How to be viewed and how to want to be viewed. It’s time to turn this around.”

It was through Bruckner that Tierney was introduced to Kait Fenwick, a young Australian writer from Newcastle. Upon meeting, the two discussed Tierney’s ideas for the exhibition. Fenwick was immediately inspired to write about the work and has completed a short essay that will accompany the exhibition in a printed booklet.

Kait Fenwick writes: “Reflected straddles the intersection of gender. It examines the grey matter that sits in between masculinity and femininity and coerces an observer to consider their place via the use of line and vast negative space. The fact that the portraits are of the artist is not necessarily a point of fixation.

“Tierney’s physical form acts as a vessel to carry ideas that shatter socially defined and often rigid confines of gender presentation. Through the use of line alone, Tierney is able to convey genderlessness.

“Drawing upon the poses adopted by haute couture models in fashion magazines and on runways, the artist is able to evoke a vulnerability that permeates the layered imagery in a way that the subject alone cannot.

“The overarching themes of identity and personal exploration are peppered with the idea of pure, aesthetic beauty. The images are raw. They have been manipulated not via computer programs but rather the physical act of slicing an image and recomposing it. The meaning of the original photograph shifts to convey something entirely different simply by having body parts that don’t traditionally adhere together, fuse.”

Steve Tierney graduated design and illustration at Sydney Graphics College in 1996. He currently lives in Sydney working from a studio in Marrickville. He has exhibited artwork in solo and group shows internationally, including Australia, Mexico, Japan, USA and Italy. He is a member of the Sydney Collage Society. His work has been published in several international collage books and he frequently creates commissioned pieces for editorial magazines and music album covers.

(Text adapted from the artists’ press materials)


China Heights Gallery
16/28 Foster Street, Level 3
Surry Hills, New South Wales 2010, Australia
+61 2 8218 2146

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Image (top):
by Steve Tierney
mixed media collage
© Steve Tierney / Tanja Bruckner, 2018

Image (centre):
by Steve Tierney
mixed media collage
© Steve Tierney / Tanja Bruckner, 2018