Marian Drew is a Brisbane-based photographic artist born in Bundaberg in 1960. Contemporary still life is a key genre of Marian’s investigation, and her images are often created by juxtaposing ornamental objects and roadkill, laid out on dining tables with beautifully embroidered or white tablecloths.
The compositions in her photographs are unsettling: on a beautiful table setting, fruit and crockery in luscious colours match those of the dead animals. The arrangements are exposed by a camera over long duration in a dark room, and Marian paints the scenes with torchlight. Bringing the roadkill into her home means Marian confronts her own relationship with animals and with death. She refers to the many native animals killed by powerlines, pets and vehicles in an urban environment, probing contemporary societal attitudes towards animals, death, and the responsibilities and sensibilities in urban life.
Marian explored figurative photography in the 1980s and 1990s. In these images figures are distorted and appear to be moving, although they are still. This effect was produced through recording the body’s movements in sequence and they trace the psychological impacts of personal change, such as Marian’s move to New York.
In 2013, Marian created a series of photographs entitled Centrepiece (2014) based on still life arrangements on a table. At the time, Marian was making sculptures from found porcelain ornaments. The photographs in this series playfully combine found objects such as fruit, wood and coral with porcelain objects like cups or birds and beautiful cloths, all photographed in front of printed or actual land- or sky-scapes. These compositions, which echo the Dutch tradition of still life, spark the viewer’s imagination and develop intrigue into the narratives depicted.
In 2007, Marian featured in the group exhibition Twenty artists Twenty years at Museum of Brisbane. In 2014, Marian collaborated with fellow artist, jeweller Barbara Heath, on a piece called Maisie and Bab’s Garden Sketchbook for MoB’s exhibition Silver, exploring the historical significance of silver in art and culture. Marian’s work Lydia Pearson (2019), received the Digital Award in the 2019 Brisbane Portrait Prize competition, and was acquired by Museum of Brisbane.