In her latest series, ‘Rococo’, Australian fine art photographer Alexia Sinclair has gone back to the 18th Century, and the Court of Versailles with the protagonist, the flamboyant Madame de Pompadour.
Alexia is one of the most exciting, and exacting, photo-media artists at work today. In addition to her individual artworks, she and her producer, and husband, James Hill also create behind-the-scenes videos that demonstrate how these modern day masterpieces come together. For ‘Rococo’ they have also created a short clip that captures the essence of the era with all the production values of a period film.
Her work is instantly recognisable with her signature found in the intricate creation and assembly of each image. Alexia, who painstakingly researches her subjects, creates every aspect of the image from scratch including growing the flowers she envisioned for ‘Rococo’ in her sprawling garden in the southern highlands of New South Wales. She also sews all the costumes. And along with Hill, builds and paints the sets.
While ‘Rococo’ is not a literal work it is in the vein of Alexia’s other historical tableaux – The Royal Twelve and Regal Dozen, which feature images that depict some of the most ruthless and fascinating royals and aristocrats dating back two millennia. There is also her series, A Frozen Tale, which is set in the 17th Century Skokloster Slott, a majestic castle commissioned by Carl Custaf Wrangel in the Swedish Age of Greatness.
Alexia says with Rococo, “I’m back to 18th Century France, my obsession”. She tells that her attraction to the Rococo period is driven by the dominant female characters of the time and Madame de Pompadour in particular, who was the mistress of the King. “This was a period when life at Court was more flamboyant, sensual and playful, when fashions were exaggerated and women used their costuming as an extension of their personalities”.
“During this period, powerful women of the French court became fashion icons and their tastes swept across Europe. Their excessive, luxurious and exotic creations have inspired many aspects of the costuming within this series; from Madame de Pompadour’s porcelain flowers, to Madame du Barry’s diamond necklace and Marie Antoinette’s muslin chemise.”
In ‘Rococo’ Alexia melds history and fantasy. In the image ‘Porcelain Petals’ a nude Madame de Pompadour lies amongst hundreds of silk flowers. “She was obsessed with porcelain flowers and commissioned them for every room in Versailles. Each morning they would be sprayed with perfume,” explains Alexia. “I hand painted hundreds and hundreds of silk flowers and they became the backdrop for that image. She was also fascinating as a very knowledgeable and intelligent woman and had a salon where she entertained the likes of Voltaire. In this image there are books scattered around as well. As the mistress of the king she has the blindfold and the feather also. It’s very cheeky”.
The images in this series are undoubtedly sumptuous in their rich composition, colour and grandeur. Of her work Alexia says, “The world is saturated with really sad imagery and we just become overwhelmed and start to shut off from it. I want to add some beauty to the world”.
Watch the Rococo video here
17 February to 8 March, 2015
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