About the artist
Anne Wallace was born in Brisbane in 1970 and, in 1993, completed a Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts) at Queensland University of Technology. That year she won the Samstag Scholarship, which enabled her to travel to London where she began a Master of Arts at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London. She graduated with distinction in 1996 – her dissertation was ‘The coincidence of painting and photography: Jeff Wall and Gerhard Richter’ – and won the Melville Nettleship Prize for Figure Composition.
Wallace has won a number of other prestigious awards and prizes, including a Residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris (1999); Sir John Sulman Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales (1999); and the Hobday and Hingston Bursary, Queensland Art Gallery (1990). Since 1993, she has exhibited regularly at Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney and Melbourne. Wallace’s paintings are held by the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, QUT Art Museum, Museum of Brisbane, Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery and Macquarie Bank Collection, Sydney.
About the work acquired
Art critic Edward Colless argues that Anne Wallace’s paintings ‘[entice us] into an unusual emotional atmosphere: a blend of lethargy, languor, composure and yet also plaintive susceptibility undercut by an uneasy sensuality.’1 Indeed, in considering her inscrutable artworks, we may be reminded of suburban voyeurs in private-eye movies and pulp fiction novels. Colless notes that this quality elicits nostalgia for the ‘film noir’ genre and classic Hollywood cinema generally, notably the work of German director Douglas Sirk.2 Sirk was best known for films that featured bored and apprehensive women trapped by domestic life where the character’s perception of herself was at odds with the viewer’s.3 A similar disjunction between the realm of viewer and subject also permeates Wallace’s paintings. Many of her compositions, for example, contain narrative elements, yet they lack the details the viewer requires to complete the story. Wallace is adamant, however, that this aspect of the ‘anti-narrative’ is not merely a tool to create ‘enigmatic conundra’ but a means of ‘straining towards . . . the emotion accompanying the actual experience . . . of living’, and is an expression of ‘the sinister underlying the mundane.’4
In Anne Wallace’s painting I shall be released (2013) she sets the exterior of an ordinary home against the motifs of cannabis plants and caged birds to depict the dark side of suburbia. Small but significant details catch our attention; for example, an inconspicuous letterbox surrounded by a tight cluster of mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) and marijuana, and the brightly coloured scalloped bannister that decorates an otherwise dull house. Plants often carry symbolic connotations in Wallace’s paintings. In this work, the foliage conflates drug culture with the banality of suburban life. A vaguely ominous tone permeates the painting and is enhanced by several features: shafts of light illuminate its dark tones, and an obscured number on the letterbox is perhaps an unlucky 13. Indeed, Wallace revels in a film noir aesthetic – her realist style and tight framing hint at a detective’s snapshot, and we can imagine that the scene has been roped off with police tape. The bars of the bird cage hint at crime and incarceration, a motif that is further emphasised by a repetitive grid of lattice that encloses the space underneath the house.
The house in the painting is situated close to the artist’s former residence in Toowong, Brisbane. In writing about its significance, Wallace explained that ‘I have wanted to paint it for a long time – it manages to combine beauty and ugliness as well’.5 She was further motivated to make the painting after looking through a collection of police photographs that were shown to her by Sydney curator and artist Peter Doyle.6 She was affected by the unsubstantial and trivial nature of the stolen goods she saw in the images, as she describes:
I was thinking about the difference between haves and have-nots, the whole Police and Thieves opposition, and how so many people who end up in the prison system are from disadvantaged backgrounds, the ranks of the mentally ill or those relegated to the too-hard basket as children. Addictive substances often play their part in that life.7
The title I shall be released alludes to a desire to escape the mundane, cyclical nature of suburban life and the enslavement of drug dependency. This metaphor is extended through Wallace’s inclusion of the budgerigars. They are, in some way, analogous to the imagined inhabitants of the house: both have the illusion of freedom and alternate realities, but they remain trapped in their cage.
Adapted from text by Emily Poore, Curatorial Assistant, and Isabella Baker, Curatorial Volunteer, June 2015.
1. Edward Colless, “Double Jeopardy,” in Anne Wallace: Recent paintings (Brisbane: Arts Queensland, 1999), 5.
2. Ibid., 5.
3. Tom Ryan, “Douglas Sirk,” Senses of cinema, http://sensesofcinema.com/2004/great-directors/sirk/#web.
4. Anne Wallace, “QAG artist’s statement,” Fortitude, http://www.visualarts.qld.gov.au/content/fortitude_statement.asp?name=AnneWallace_FullStatement.
5. Georgia Hobbs, email to Samantha Littley, Curator, 17 June 2014.