Anna Carey creates luminous daydream sites of the imagination exploiting architecture’s multi-sensory ‘affect’ to transport beyond space, place and time.
Her works are in the way of miniature mise-en-scènes. A device in theatre and film for arranging objects on set or within camera shot to amplify mood. Within her unpopulated, eerily still and stylised illusionistic environments she conjures parallel realities – and unrealities.
A dreamy filmic sensibility pervades. At once familiar yet also nostalgic. Unsettling, Not quite Hitchcockian. Maybe poetic noir. Coincidentally Hitchcock made a film titled, Madame Mystery for TV in 1960. Set in an isolated beach house, the building and the menacing sea assume the significance of characters.
Anna Carey paradoxically combines flat frontal perspective with atmospheric depth. The illumination and gradient of earth and sky colour blur the point where land and sky meet to create a disorienting expanse and depth of space and time.
Disorientation is a collective response to the Covid pandemic’s global threat and lockdowns. A sense of being closed in, of isolation is heightened. Our craving for connection with colleagues, friends, and loved ones fuelled desire for escapist communication beyond the walls, both physical and spiritual. Intensified seeking for assurances in uncertain times. A boom in fortune-telling businesses during the pandemic was reported by CBS as people looked for hope.
Anna Carey devised the Madam Mystery, series of photographs based on fictive psychic shop fronts during the pandemic lockdown. With travelling restricted, her focus is on psychic shops in Los Angeles where she was based. The series follows from an earlier work, Madame Mystery that Anna produced in 2020 when at an artist-residency in the South of France she became aware of a vernacular style of ‘branding’ and architecture favoured by psychics. A look that is universally identifiable, with little difference, whether in France or in the new age culture of California where she lives. A style characterised world-wide by the choice of exotic names and aliases and premises adorned with pulsing electronic signage, candy colours and celestial imagery.
The buildings in Anna Carey’s works fit with American architect Robert Venturi ‘s ‘decorated shed’ metaphor for symbolic architecture.
Venturi, one of the most influential figures in twentieth-century architecture found joy in the everyday Californian burger stands and proliferation of Vegas facades and billboards, attributing them as much credibility as the cathedral; luring in, setting the scene for escapism, for pleasure beyond.
The mystique of occult or esoteric sciences, of portents hidden or accessed beyond the natural world has prevailed over centuries. Purveyed by seers, fantasists and mystics whose prognostications are sources of comfort and consultation. Their psychic abilities and empathetic magicking, practiced via tarot cards, seances, palmistry, astrological readings or feng-shui, an ancient Chinese belief that siting, arrangement of objects and energy flow within a building can impact health and wealth, are all offered as counterparts of the natural sciences. Psychic readings are often a co-creation, with clients’ imaginations doing all the work. Somewhat in the way of Anna Carey’s works.
Text and the aura and ambience of translucent light are integral to the messaging in Madam Mystery where reality and the imagination can co-exist. Anna Carey’s Light Worker neon and billboard-style idiomatic text images, Everything you imagine is real and You can bring your fantasies to earth are in the spirit of Jenny Holzer’s neon truisms vested in commonly held truths, aphorisms and cliches. Carey’s allied and entertaining text-based Madam Mystery Fortune Cookie Performance offers customised cookies containing mystic messages to gallery-goers. The packets are printed with the artist’s phone number. Call the number, ask a question. The artist chooses a card from a Tarot deck and messages you the response.
Light has long been associated with mysticism and the afterlife, the other-worldly glow of deities, stained glass windows in churches, the bright white light of enlightenment as well as its everyday application as signage. The medium of neon burgeoned in the sixties with California’s drive-by car culture. Anna Carey’s, Light Worker acknowledges those contexts and indirectly alludes to the pivotal role of light in her practice as a photo-artist.
The element of artifice as both premise and process is fundamental to Anna Carey’s art practice. Model-making and her miniature, ephemeral, faux objects and fictive buildings are vested in fabrication as a philosophical concept and construction method. The medium of photography, by which she renders her tableaus ‘authentic’, is predicated on the fugitive capture of reflected light. The esoteric sciences, occult arts and sympathetic magic that are the core of Madame Mystery – are they perhaps inherently artifice also?
Anna completed a Bachelor of Visual Media with Honours (first class) at Queensland College of Art and recently received her Doctorate (DVA) with QCA.
She has exhibited at Photo la, Los Angeles; Artereal Gallery, Sydney; Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane; Dlux Media Arts, Federation Square Melbourne and the Museum of Brisbane.
She has been shortlisted in numerous prizes including the The Hopper Prize, The Churchie National Emerging Art Award, the Queensland Regional Art Awards and twice for The Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award, first in 2013 when she received the acquisition award and again in 2022.
Her work has been acquired by Artbank, Corrigan Collection, Coboolture Regional Art Gallery, Gadens Lawyers, Grantpirrie Private Collection, Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Gold Coast University Hospital, Macquarie Bank Art Collection, National Gallery of Australia, University of Queensland, The Soho House Collection, and numerous private collections.
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