ALLUSION & ILLUSION
THE FANTASTICAL WORLD
OF VALERIE SPARKS
Allusion & Illusion: the fantastical world of Valerie Sparks is the first in a series of exhibitions that profiles and explores the work of previous William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize alumni.
Valerie Sparks won the Bowness Photography Prize in 2016 for her work ‘Prospero's Island – North East’ from the series Prospero's Island (2016). Sparks had been a finalist four times previously, but it was for this work that the judges decided to award her the coveted prize.
Sparks began her studies in a field that has become integral to her practice, Anthropology and Pacific Studies. It has provided her with a rich tapestry of subject matter to draw from, with a level of authority, control and command over the collections that she works. The historical and sociological significance of Tasmania and its turbulent and troubled history is reflected in her work and response to the landscape.
Sparks purposefully creates sensuous and stunningly beautiful large scale works that entice the viewer with perfectly impossible landscapes. Each work is meticulously constructed using photographs she has taken of different landscapes, flora, fauna and taxidermied animals from museum collections. It is a painstaking process to remove the background before creating the multi-layered work.
These montaged, composite images draw attention to concerns over the destruction of landscape, post-colonialism and globalisation. In particular her work draws attention to displacement and the turbulent history of Tasmania, and highlights the problematic way historical museum collections have been established.
Sparks draws inspiration from a variety of sources, in particular she responds to immersive works that attempt to disrupt the viewer's, or participant's, perspective. This includes a focus on 18th century French scenic wallpapers, frescoes and contemporary 3D light-based installations.
Allusion & Illusion draws together key works that chart the history of Sparks's practice and hints at the exciting, immersive and innovative installations that will come next.
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Hear from interior designer Kate Challis about the large scale wallpaper work she commissioned Sparks's to do for her own domestic interior to be featured in Vogue Living