27 June 2015

Quaternary exhibition at QUT Art Museum

Words: Saskia Edwards
Images: Jonathan Rae
Artworks: Bianca Beetson, Chantal Fraser, Rachael Haynes, Natalya Hughes, Alice Lang, Gemma Smith, and Jemima Wyman

Bianca Beetson says “we were all born pink, even when a dark baby is born, it’s still pink at first”.

And it’s that colour, which is so deeply imbued with meaning, that underpins Bianca’s work.

“I was a bit of a tomboy growing up and my mother, I remember her, as a last ditch attempt putting me in this pink bedroom,” says Bianca.

“It had pink clouds on the wallpaper and on the bedspread. And I really don’t like the colour pink.

“I ended up reclaiming pink in many ways and my hatred for pink became about anger and how pink’s not necessarily this insipid colour that’s associated with girls it can actually be quite powerful.”

Bianca’s self portraits at QUT’s Quaternary exhibition are bathed in fuchsia, blush and coral. Her costume changes from soldier, to barbarian to bohemian. It’s kind of this strange journey of mercurial magenta identity. And Bianca’s wrestle with identity is inexplicably linked to her aboriginality that of course is steeped in complex history and politics. 

“I always struggled with this thing of, who am I? and being pigeon-holed and people expecting you to act and behave in a certain way.

“And I think back to my uni days and I’d turned up nearly every day dressed as a completely different person because just when someone had thought that they had got me figured out... where to put me, I would shift.”

The pink in Bianca’s practice extends beyond femininity and self-perception. It looks at the “artificiality” of Australian history and “the way that pink sort of signifies this candy-coating”.

“I talk about sugar-coating poo and you can even sugar-coat poo that much and make it palatable.

“And at the end of the day it’s still poo.

“‘Let’s cover it up, let’s sweeten it’, but the problem doesn’t go away.”

Bianca has looked even further into that richly emblematic colour and found the concept of assimilation. Bianca’s grandmother was a domestic in Cherbourg where she “was taught to be a good woman, a good cleaner, a good cook, to stitch and sow and do all of those domestic things”. For Bianca, this represents the assimilation of her culture, heritage in family.

In the end, history, gender, identity: they're not white washed, they're pink washed.

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