Playing The Man I Graham Miller
From Saturday 11 June 2022 - 10:00am
To Sunday 14 August 2022 - 04:00pm
Saturday 11 June 2022 10:00am
These playful and humorous images are a celebration of football and a wistful look at the past. Referencing bubble gum footy cards from the 1970’s and 80’s (and press images, including Rennie Ellis's iconic image of Robbie McGhie), Miller recreates himself as boyhood football heroes to explore issues of masculinity, identity and cultural difference.
Footy cards are used as a microcosm to reflect upon a country recently emerging out of the White Australia policy (it was legally abolished in 1973) - an assembly of predominantly white men, with some indigenous players and almost no Asians. Aussie Rules in the 1970’s and ‘80’s exemplified traditional notions of masculinity- toughness, dominance, aggression, emotional stoicism, and suppression of any vulnerability or weakness. These values were worshipped in the boarding house Miller attended as a child, with boys trying to emulate their heroes. Straying from the script risked being picked on or suffer relentless bullying. Compared to today’s highly stylised and groomed celebrities on Instagram and social media, footy luminaries on cards from this period are refreshingly unmanicured. Larrikin moustachioed grins, dishevelled hair, hammed up poses and indifferent photography coalesce into comical portraits which defy the revered status with which these players were held. Hard men look surprisingly soft.
Miller emphasises the absurdity through the use of masquerade, using it as a strategy to question ingrained ideals of Australian masculinity and to comment on the difficulties of conforming to traditional notions of Australianness growing up as a person of mixed heritage.
To reproduce portraits of such uncanny similarity to the original football cards, Miller scrounged ebay for months, collecting vintage football jerseys from the 1970’s and 80’s and searching for locations and backdrops. Each image required hundreds of photographs to be taken of himself while performing on location or in the studio using makeup, wigs and prosthetics and finely tuning facial expression, gesture and the body. The exhibition is shown alongside original Scanlens football cards and press images.
I came to boarding school in Perth aged ten in 1977. Hong Kong born, half-Chinese, English-accented and tiny. I was the smallest person in the boarding house, even though there were boys two years younger than me. I felt like I had been “beamed in” from another planet. It was a Sunday when I arrived, and the introduction to Australian ritual began immediately. World Series cricket on the telly and Countdown at 6pm with Pussyfoot and Leo Sayer. Come wintertime, it was "The Winners" with Drew Morphett. The TV room packed with country boys waiting for Mark of the Day, Goal of the Day and Play of the Day. Malcolm Blight and Bernie “The Superboot” Quinlan, Ken Hunter and Leigh Matthews, The Flying Dutchman and the Flying Doormat. Hard men chasing an oval ball. It was tough to relate. These were the Aussie male heroes to aspire to. They didn’t look much like me. Luckily in the WAFL there was Les Fong, a well-respected and courageous footballer of Chinese heritage that I could pretend to be. I never got any good at football. I played hockey, or as the boys at school called it “dicky-whackers”.
- Graham Miller
Miller is the quintessential chronicler of Australian suburban life, in all its richness and mundanity. This new body of work continues this project by exploiting the ambiguity of images, which, Robert Cook describes as “… the way that all photographs have elements of fabrication and truth-telling”. By mimicking the physical appearance of his childhood heroes, he reveals both the little boy’s awe and fascination for these men while concurrently interrogating how these tropes of masculinity have impacted on his adult self and those of his generation. The unsettling insight he presents to us in this body of work is that we may all be just playing the man we were conditioned to become.
- Ted Snell, Chief Cultural Officer, University of Western Australia for See Saw Magazine
About ART ON THE MOVE
ART ON THE MOVE is a not-for-profit visual arts organisation encouraging connections and fostering a sense of belonging, creativity and a greater understanding of ourselves and the world through visual art. We do this by touring quality contemporary art with appropriate learning and development opportunities that speak to and develop the unique cultural narratives of communities whatever the cultural practice, age, ability and engagement with culture.
Act-Belong-Commit Engagement Program (Sponsored by Healthway)
The free Act-Belong-Commit Engagement Program presented by ART ON THE MOVE creates inspiring pathways for participation, learning and engagement that connects new and potential audiences in appropriate, meaningful, fun and creative ways. Including education resources, artists/curators talks and gallery tours, the free program is made possible through investment by Healthway providing young people in regional and remote areas across Western Australia the opportunity to engage with practicing artists and immerse themselves in visual experiences through learning. Find out more on the ART ON THE MOVE website and Act-Belong-Commit.
The Bunbury Regional Gallery will host an opening brunch on Sunday 19th June from 10am. As part of this FREE public event, Miller will be presenting an artist talk from 11.00am - 12.00pm
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