Inside Sculptural Photography | An Interview with Petrina Hicks

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Petrina Hicks is a magician and photography is her magic. Her best trick is bringing a metaphorical idea into a physical dimension through the lens of a camera. Each photo captures the scene as well as a piece of Petrina’s soul.

Her photography journey began in art school. Petrina fell in love with metamorphosis of an idea into a photograph. “I loved the process of transforming ideas into photographs, and learning how to balance the ‘literal’ or ‘exaggerated’ nature of photography with the ambiguous, enigmatic or subtle nature of what I was trying to achieve.”

After art school Petrina worked as an assistant in commercial photography but found herself yearning to be released from the boundaries that came with it. It was then that Petrina began exploring the female identity in contemporary culture and art history through the perspective of a commercial photographer. Throughout her career, Petrina’s work has been exhibited globally.

What role does ‘female identity’ play in your art and where do you take the inspiration from?

I look to the symbolism and motifs employed to represent female identity throughout art history and ancient culture and compare these to symbolism found in current image culture. I am fascinated by the reinterpretation of symbols and myths throughout history, we seem to have this archaic reservoir of symbols and archetypes we continually draw upon.

The spiritual and ephemeral nature of the human and animal condition is of inspiration also, in comparison to the corporeal or fragile nature of our condition. The female subjects in my works are like avatars or messengers.

What kind of experience do you want your audience to have when viewing you work?

I surround the subjects in my photographic frame with a lot of space, room for the viewer to enter the frame, room to breathe, contemplate and circulate the subject, like you do with sculpture.  The sculptural qualities of the people, objects and animals are enhanced by casting them against stark monotone backgrounds. I often employ animals to represent aspects of psyche, as a way of exploring identity, attempting to resolve what makes us ‘human’ as opposed to ‘non-human’.

What role do you think art has in society and in the retail industry?

Perhaps art allows us to see a different perspective of ‘reality’, we temporarily enter a space where we are not bound by our own particular lens of perception. Artists are able to explore between the ‘cracks’, and we become privy to their investigations. The boundaries between art, retail, commercial, design are very porous now, all forms feeding into each other and producing new platforms, ideas and creations.

Petrina continues to have a successful career as she just finished a new series for a show at Michael Reid Gallery in Sydney Australia and is beginning on new work for a show at National Gallery of Victoria for 2019. When asked if there’s anything she would change about her career she said no.

“I think all mistakes are gifts in disguise, they help to refine ideas, when making a new series of photographs I seem to discover the right direction after a process of going in the wrong direction first.”

Petrina followed that wisdom with simple advice for young artists. “Stay true and be resilient.”

Sarah Elaine Rossi