The series Empire Line is an exhibition about the traces of inhabitation. It is part of an ongoing project with the Historic Houses Trust of NSW. As well as being a reflection upon the nature and minutiae of nineteenth century domesticity these still lives also reflect our colonial history; the desire for betterment and the need to re-create what has been left behind through the transport of taste and knowledge systems.
Apart from domestic goods brought back from England and the continent, most homes in Australia were furnished via proxy through catalogue purchase. Imported goods were at least one season behind and the catalogue provided the perfect way to market seconds to the colony. Visitors from England were both shocked and amused by these domestic environments, which reflected an eclectic mishmash of objects in different styles and from different epochs.
The images reveal my own fascination with the still life tradition but also speak about the Australian notion of home and what it means to our national psyche. By using the still life to re-work and re-view the Trust’s collection I hope to destabilise the traditional museum display and return the objects to an approximate albeit fictional reality, creating a sense that the settings have been left only momentarily and that people are never far away.
Robyn Stacey is a Sydney based photographer, whose work is held in the collections of Artbank, the Australian National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery of Australia, all State galleries, most University collections, numerous corporate and private collections. She is a senior lecturer in the School of Communication Arts at the University of Western Sydney. A member of the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council (2006 -2008), and photographer/author with Ashley Hay of Herbarium, 2004, and Museum, 2007, both published by Cambridge University Press. Robyn Stacey is represented by Stills Gallery. www.stillsgallery.com.au