Resonance, Through Her Eyes

Mandana Mapar's exhibition 'Through her eyes' at Old Government House presents a series of historic photographs taken by Lady Lamington at the turn of the 19th century alongside contemporary artworks by Mapar exploring notions of migration, love and loss.
In bringing back to life images taken on a Kodak camera nearly 120 years ago, she reflects on the private life of a very public female figure of the time revealing her ordinary everyday perspectives in and around the grounds of Old Government House alongside
her recollections of the time through diaries and letters sent back to England.


Resonance - Through Her Eyes

Old Government House, Brisbane Australia

April - July 2016

The detailed study of a historic figure can draw much information from the remnants which are left behind and over time entrusted to family, and finally bequeathed or donated to public keeping places such as museums and historical societies. These primary sources of information - letters, photographs and newspaper articles - are archived and subsequently sometimes forgotten for years. That is until intrepid historians and artists alike begin the process of collating this wealth of information to analyze and reconfigure these valuable treasures into some sort of historically accurate tableau faithful to the true essence of the characters involved.

At Old Government House the artist presented a series of photographs and textile based works inspired by the Lamington letters featuring excerpts from historical and contemporary texts, and a series of historic photographic reproductions depicting Lord Lamington, the Governor of Queensland and his wife Mary Houghton Hozier, known informally as May (1896-1901).

Personal family photos of Victor and Grisell Lamington at Government House, Brisbane by Lady Lamington using a Kodak camera.

This series of Kodak portrait photographs presented in Through Her Eyes were captured by May and Wallace (Lady and Lord Lamington) during their five-year posting in Brisbane. The young newly married couple arrived in Queensland at a time of great change and the candid intimacy of the small selection of images remind the artist of her own family photographs - usually taken outdoors showing one or more children in action across a lawn or on a tennis court. The appeal of these images lies both in the familiar poses and the informality of the sitters and in the fact that such images were unlikely to have ever been published and viewed beyond the immediate family.

The discrete site-specific installation is presented in the private chamber and very room where May gave birth to both her children Victor and Grisell here in Australia over one hundred years ago. The artist's detailed studies of the interiors of what was classed the female wing of Old Government House refer to the current absence of domestic and personal flourishes. The architectural detail and spatial voids amplify the passage of time and repurposing of the building many times over the subsequent years.

Mandana Mapar Resonance embroidered canvas

The artist presents a series of machine embroidered text based works containing excerpts from the correspondences between May and Wallace. These particular letters are interwoven with excerpts from letters, correspondences and poems selected by the artist through an invitation to friends and fellow artists to share their personal correspondences reflecting the joys and frailties inherent in relationships over time and distance.

May experienced brief but profound periods of isolation and separation from her husband as the governor attended to official business throughout Queensland and further afield. Similarly the letters and poems gathered for this collection by the artist through the call out to her network speak of the tyranny of distance, the insurmountable odds of separated loves and the yearning for an idealized sometimes unattainable love.

Letters contain critical information - reveal layers of meaning, the day to day lives of people and the internal dialogue inherent in such texts reveal significant indicators of emotional and physical wellbeing. The subtlest details such as the arrival and departures of key family members and friends to the descriptive manner in which May describes her newly adopted country are somewhat at odds as illustrated by the official austere and uneasy press photographs of the time.

These points of reference inform the artist's contemplative and measured studies of the characters and events preserved in time as snapshots and recollections.

Commissioned for the exhibition by Mapar,  renowned Queensland poets Simon Kindt and India Nicholls, who performed an original poetic dialogue using excerpts from the letters of May and Wallace (Lady and Lord Lamington) on the first of May, 2016. 


Image references:                                                                                                                                  

Excerpt from Lady Lamington’s Memoir, 1943.  TD 1029/46 2nd Lady Lamington: Correspondence, Diaries, Miscellanea AJCP SLQ. Photographed at Old Government House 2016 (Notations by Katie McConnel Curator Old Government House).

LL (Lady Lamington/Love Letters) 2016, machine embroidery, hand cut SPI canvas (Duck) bound book.

Old Government House, Queensland University of Technology Brisbane Australia

Review of the exhibition by Louise Martin Chew for eyeline contemporary visual arts, no. 86 2017