Justine Khamara: “If my work could inspire anything I would hope that it might be a moment’s silence”

Justine Khamara takes two dimensional photographs which she hand-cuts to use in the construction of sculptural, three dimensional forms.  Her work adopts a variety of approaches from garbled shredded faces to dreamlike masses of arms that appear as if they might move.  It is the spherical portraits that I found particularly engaging, entitled ‘Now I am a radiant people’ (2011). The ‘scales’ that cover the surface of the spheres appear at first almost creature-like, as if each ball might unfurl and slink away; or perhaps they are huge pinecones fallen to the ground, waiting to open and seed.  It is not until closer inspection that one realises they are constructed from a rhythm of tiny human portraits, changing scale, giving the impression of a living, expanding thing; they appear to be animal, plant and human all at once.

The use of the sphere and the spiral in this work opens up many potential meanings around nature, the earth, life.  Khamara’s use of photographs, representations of human life, provides a thought-provoking source material for this work.  The roundness of each piece suggests a continuity of human life and the sheer number of portraits on each sphere could prompt thoughts of human dominance, perhaps, whilst also commenting on photography’s ubiquity and reproducibility. I searched for further information about Khamara’s rationale in making this work but could not find text to support the work and her website was unavailable, leaving it very open to my own interpretation. I did find an interview, in which she was asked about the conversations she hopes her work would prompt.  In it, she said:

“I don’t really think about conversations. The works that affect me the most are those that cause me to shut up and look. What drew me to art in the first place was this way of communicating through the creation of something; an object that can resist speech and that can be powerfully silent. If my work could inspire anything I would hope that it might be a moment’s silence.” (Khamara in Pesa, 2016, www.art-almanac.com.au)

“Khamara’s practice to date has sought to disrupt photography’s smooth, two-dimensional surfaces by building sculptures and collages entirely out of photographs.  A flat image, usually figurative, is transformed either by slicing directly into the photographic skin and pulling features into three dimensional form, or by taking multiple shots of a single subject which are then collaged.  Often evoking biological processes of replication while also engaging with notions of self-representaiton in an era of instant, endlessly generative (re)productions technologies, her work is best understood as a deeply psychological response to contemporary notions of being (in the existentialist sense).  ” (https://arcone.com.au/justine-khamara-artist-profile)

Arc One Gallery, https://arcone.com.au/justine-khamara-artist-profile
(Accessed 8 March 2019)

Khamara, J. in Pesa, M. (2016) In conversation with… Justine Khamara, Art Almanac [Online] 26 September 2016, Available at: https://www.art-almanac.com.au/in-conversation-with-justine-khamara/ (Accessed 8 March 2019)

Images available at:
Lomography.com (2013) Justine Khamara’s ‘now I am radiant people’ and ‘Erysichthon’s Ball’ Series, 26 October 2013.  https://www.lomography.com/magazine/258402-justine-khamaras-now-i-am-radiant-people-and-erysichthons-ball-series
(Accessed 8 March 2019)