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Food & Image: Marian Drew

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 Drew in her studio
Marian Drew in her studio. Courtesy the artist.

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.

Marian has created an impressive body of work to wide acclaim over more than three decades. She has also pursued a career in tertiary education and is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University.  Marian is an internationally celebrated artist, with over forty solo exhibitions and numerous group exhibitions in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Germany, France, China, Dubai, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Peru. Marian’s work is held in international and Australian collections. She represented Australia at the First Asia Pacific Triennial (Queensland Art Gallery) 1993; at the Pingyao International Photography Festival (China) 2010; and at the Photography Biennale, Photoquai (Paris) 2011. More recently, Marian’s work has appeared in international exhibitions such as the Dubai Photo Exhibition 2016 and the travelling exhibition Wall Power: Contemporary Australian Photography (Cologne, Berlin, London and Paris) 2017/2018. In Australia, some of her more recent exhibitions include Still Life at the Casula Powerhouse in Sydney in 2017; Devonian Flesh: Swallowing the Cave at Turner Galleries (Perth) 2018; and Survey 1983 – 2018 at Andrew Baker Art Dealer (Brisbane) 2019.

Marian Drew (Bundaberg b. 1960), Pelican with turnips (detail) 2005
Marian Drew (Bundaberg b. 1960), Pelican with turnips (detail) 2005, photograph. Courtesy the artist.

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