© Janieta Eyre, Motherhood, from the series Motherhood

© Janieta Eyre, Two pages from my diary, from the series Lady Lazarus

“Speaking of photographs of racing horses, Rodin once said ‘It is the artist who is truthful and the camera that lies because, in reality; time does not stand still”. When Janieta Eyre states that “The media and photography have something in common: they are both more fiction than fact” she is reaffirming Rodin’s reasoning in an up-to-date way. She is also confirming that, despite appearances, she is the heir to a tradition that is far older than is usually realised. In the by now enormous flood of hooks and articles dedicated to the transvestite and misc en scene practices that have recently swept the world of visual arts, above all photography, their origins have often been forgotten. These are to be found in the practitioners of what might be called artistic photography during its greatest period, from Rejlander to Julia Margaret Cameron whose model Mary Hillier was transformed so often into the Virgin Mary as to merit the nickname of Mary Madonna: not bad for faking reality given we are dealing with a modest servant in Cameron’s household.

So the roots of a tendency to counterfeit or reinvent reality in a theatrical way are to be found -not just for Pyre but for Sherman, Ontaili and others – within this tradition (and we should not forget that, both at the beginning and at the end of the century, this involved photography’s emulation of painting: first in order to acquire artistic dignity and later to reaffirm the centrality it had by now gained) Yet if her roots are to be found in this tradition it is also true that Pyre’s work is substantially different just as her results are different, above all because in the meantime some very powerful artists have tackled these themes and have provided further areas for exploration: just think of Ralph Fugene Meatyard’s fundamental The Family Album at Lucybell Grater or of the early self-portraits of Urs Luthi, even though an abyss separates the two artists (both of whom were, significantly, born at the beginning of the Sixties). Furthermore Lyre, born in London in the mid-sixties and now working in Canada, has a markedly different sensibility (and perhaps I should also mention here that the apparently realistic images off the wall are also the result of manipulation as well as being staged).

Above all this sensibility of hers has developed from a cool mixture of high and low culture where allusions to the painting of the past are as frequent as those to cartoons, where Alice in Wonderland refers not only to the book by Carroll (one of Cameron’s circle of photographers, amongst other things) but to the Walt Disney cartoon film, where Greenaway can mix with Waters’ Pink Flamingos with a nod to Fellini’s Casanova along the way, and all giving life to a wealth of images deviated and deviant with respect to the usual pathos of artistic influences. It is not by chance that this also occurs in the most recent series by Tracey Moffatt who crosses Quinta del Sordo with Fantasia. (…)”

Essay by Walter Cuadagnini. To continue reading click here

More of Janieta’s work can be seen here

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