Greta Anderson‘s Greenery
GRETA ANDERSON Balinese Bride 1997 Colour photograph
Verdant plant life is never far away in Greta Anderson’s images. In her works, shrubs are characters too, with a life and narrative of their own. In Glengarry, Invercargill, Hedge (2010), a massive slab-hedge occupies the space between two burial plots. Her use of a wide angle lens exaggerates the monolithic hedge by pitching the peripheral scene into a vertiginous all-in-one moment, that you can almost feel yourself falling into. This uncompromising slab squats like a buffer zone between warring parties in a long-standing family feud.
That wide angle view contrasts with works like Weeds, Bethells (2013) where the picture plane is entirely overrun with greenery, a dense stand of existing bush smothered in convolvulus. The cultivated restraint of a manicured slab hedge is deliberately contrasted with the dizzying wonder of an out-of-control patch of morning glory.
Gardens are typically a space of cultivation, which strive to create order from wild, raw, unvarnished nature. Anderson’s habit of shooting plant life is the perfect ruse. Her gardens are metaphors for her own synthesized approach to photography, which operates neatly between narrative and documentary practice. Her images function in two modes; on the one hand as fictitious film stills, on the other, as a coded genre of staged documentary. Mockumentary photography? This dual operating mode is evident from one of her earliest series.
The 1997 series, Stand Ins, uses landscape as a backdrop for a silent drama, one played out in still rather than moving images. A rifleman, or woman, in this case, stands waist deep in a lush display of exotic weeds; tobacco plant and morning glory. Her rifle is poised and aiming at something out of shot. She is a prop, being moved about in a drama of inexplicable proportion.
In the series Picturing Eden (1997) Anderson experiments as auteur cinematographer, plotting out exotic species as if they had starring roles in an unfolding narrative, where the voice over and sound bed comes into production later. A Balinese model poses, a cipher of the exotic, overshadowed by the upright flowers in the foreground.
The often understated psychological import in Anderson's images has evolved into a poignant, almost uncomfortable silence in her 2012 series, Learning to be content. The stagey set-up and long titles leave you hovering delicately between fictional and factual operating modes.
GRETA ANDERSON Glengarry, Invercargill, Hedge 2010 Colour photograph
GRETA ANDERSON Weeds, Bethells 2013 Colour photograph
GRETA ANDERSON Float Like a Feather 1997 Colour photograph
GRETA ANDERSON they said she couldn't come because it was a family day 2012 Colour photograph