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Indepth Arts News:

"Ella Dreyfus: Under Twelves"
2005-11-02 until 2005-11-13
Groundfloor Gallery
Balmain, NS, AU Australia

Groundfloor Gallery announces the opening of Under Twelves, an exhibition of recent photographs by Sydney artist, Ella Dreyfus. In this exhibition, Dreyfus has turned her camera’s gaze towards the fleeting innocence of youth, photographing her young son and his team mates as they hover on the cusp of childhood and adolescence, traversing both the feminine and masculine worlds. She invites us to contemplate a subject matter that will no doubt elicit both a sense of pleasure and discomfort.

Dreyfus is well-known for her photographic works which have received national attention and critical acclaim; her previous exhibitions include Pregnancy Series (1992), The Body Pregnant (Penguin Books 1993), Age and Consent (1999) and Transman (2001). These exhibitions and publications successfully challenged our perceptions of beauty, finding ways to depict and empower those who do not conform to prevailing aesthetic standards. Her images embraced the ordinary, striking a rich source of humanity, compassion and emotional resonance.

“One of Australia’s most respected photographers, Ella Dreyfus is known for her unflinching yet deeply sympathetic portraits of the sorts of bodies and faces that don’t usually get exposed” Sebastian Smee, Sydney Morning Herald, 2001 Under Twelves continues her investigation into the complexities of looking at the human body, in this instance, the young male. Her subjects, an entire team of boys from the Balmain and District Soccer Club, are depicted bare-chested, and face directly towards the camera’s lens. They appear unaware of the intense and subtle prettiness their youthful forms embody.

"Young boys are beautiful; their mothers know this, but does society allow us to acknowledge their beauty?" says Dreyfus. The primary cultural gaze is always directed towards the female, and when male beauty is noticed, it somehow becomes associated with the female and is therefore diminished in the eyes of the dominant patriarchal paradigm. Boys themselves use the phrase “you’re a girl” to debase and insult other males, reducing them to a position of inferiority and heading closer to the most dangerous of all insults “gay”. The threat of this most unforgiving label ensures that most boys take only a small amount of pride in their looks. From an early age parents and teachers are complicit in shearing and shaping them into a very narrow range of acceptable versions of young manhood. Our society disallows boys the pleasures of preening, parading and delighting in them-selves, something that girls take for granted (notwithstanding its inherent conflicts and contradictions).

"The attraction of youths' innocence and vulnerability seems to be hard-wired into all of us" Cherry Hood, Artist, 2004 With unflinching detail, Dreyfus’ photographs invite viewers to visually appreciate this short-lived moment in time, when masculinity radiates grace, beauty and exquisite potential.

Ella Dreyfus’ public artwork Weight and Sea, will be on exhibition in the 2005 Sculptures by the Sea exhibition at Tamarama Beach from the 3rd of November and her portrait The Lads: Nadz and Dax is currently on exhibition in the Olive Cotton Portrait Award at the Tweed River Art Gallery. She was also a finalist in the 2005 Citigroup Australian Photographic Portrait Prize at the Art Gallery of NSW.


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