Australian artist Polixeni Papapetrou has gained international recognition for her thoughtful photographs that contemplate the childhood imagination. For over a decade she has been engaged in an intimate photographic collaboration with her children and their friends. As they have grown and transformed so too have the roles they perform and spaces they inhabit intersecting with the boundaries of time, history and contemporary culture. Her photographs are a powerful testament to how childhood relates to the adult world: they speak both directly and metaphorically about childhood, adolescence and identity and how children might reconcile their inner world with the social demands of the outer world during this phase. Papapetrou engages part reality, part fantasy moving through the mysterious landscape of her home country, using the rich terrain as a backdrop for narratives about the transitional space of childhood. It is the awkward evolution of youth that informs the in‐between spaces she creates in series such as Between Worlds, The Dreamkeepers and The Ghillies. She holds the degrees, PhD, Monash University (2007); MA Media Arts, RMIT University (1997); LLB/ BA, University of Melbourne (1984). Papapetrou has held over 45 solo exhibitions in Australia and internationally. In 2011 the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney held a retrospective of her work. Her work had been exhibited widely throughout Asia and Europe. In 2010 she represented Australia Australia at the Month of Photography Festival, Bratislava and at the Athens Festival of Photography. She has participated in over 70 group exhibitions including, The National Arts Center, Tokyo; 3rd Biennale Photoquai at Le musée du quai Branly, Paris, Seoul International Photography Festival, Seoul; Museum of Photography, Seoul, De Cordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Massachusetts; Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; Aperture Gallery, New York and at ‘Le Mois de la Photo’, Montreal. In 2012 she will participate in Photofestival Noorderlicht 2012, The Netherlands. Papapetrou’s work is appears in over 180 articles, citations and essays including Naomi Rosenblum, A History of Women Photographers, Abbeville Press, New York, 2010; Anne Marsh, Look: Australian Photography Now, MacMillan Publishers, Australia, 2010; Anne Higonnet, Presumed Innocence: Photographic Perspectives of Children, De Cordova Museum, Massachusetts, 2008; Susan McCulloch, The New McCulloch’s Encyclopedia of Australian Art, 2006. Selected grants and awards: Australia Council New Work Grant, 2009, 2007, 2005, 2000; Arts Victoria, International Touring Grant, 2010; 2007; Arts Victoria Professional Development Grant, 2002; Australian Post-Graduate Research Award, 2002-2005. Recipient of the Josephine Ulrick & Win Schubert Photography Award (2009). Papapetrou’s work is held in public collections including National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Ballarat Art Gallery; Bendigo Art Gallery; Edith Cowan University, Perth; Geelong Art Gallery; Monash Gallery of Art; Gippsland Art Gallery; Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Queensland; State Library of Victoria; Murdoch University, Perth; The Arts Centre, Melbourne; Warrnambool Art Gallery; Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida. Corporate collections include Wesfarmers Art Collection, Perth and BHP Billiton, Melbourne. Her work is in private collections in Australia, England, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium, USA.
Entry description: Polixeni Papapetrou engages reality and fantasy, moving through the mysterious landscape of Australia as a backdrop for narratives about the transitional space of childhood. In unreal theatrical guises, the children emerge enigmatically as animals; they are present but their child identity recedes: new archetypes emerge as animal apparitions that speak to us about transformation and self-realizing periods in our lives. The abstract meeting of these two forms, inner child and outer presence may indicate the cyclical nature of our life spans that inevitably brings us back to the freedom of childhood imagination.