Patricia Casey: Little Secrets

We all keep to ourselves little secrets – private mental landscapes that are inaccessible to others. We all have an inner core that we don’t reveal to others, even to those with whom we are most intimate.

Patricia Casey’s latest solo exhibition, ‘Little Secrets’ at NG Art Gallery, presents a series of photographic montages with glittering threads embroidered throughout the surface of her artworks. Casey’s stitching is a form of drawing that traces the shapes and forms of the natural world, hinting at what may lie beneath the surface of these dreamlike images. Denuded branches evoke the human circulatory system; French knots and back stitch reference synapses within the brain.

There are layers of ambiguity in these works, as beauty is contrasted with unease. We are uncertain as to whether the subjects’ gaze is inward or outward; are they the watched or the watching; the hidden or revealed?

Casey’s work makes reference to the historical tradition of memento mori in which a lock of human hair, embroidery, fabric, or ribbon are used to decorate the frame or surface area around a treasured photograph, thus transforming the image from a documentary tool into a vehicle of the imagination. This ambiguity is an extension of her research into the “questioning the reliability of photography as an aid to memory. I create tableaus, landscapes and happenings that have never actually taken place”, she says.

Of photography, Casey says; “in our daily lives, we all use photography to help us to remember, but I would argue that photographic images are not reliable representations of reality or truth and that there is not even a definitive truth in life at all”.

There is much mystery as to the purpose of dreams. Neuro-philosophers and psychoanalysts cannot agree whether their function is restorative, or whether they provide an opportunity for learning and consolidation of memories. Are they a rehearsal for our waking lives? How do our brains distinguish between dreaming and waking thought? Like memory and particularly the memories attached to photographs, dreams do not track the truth reliably. We entertain the false, the fantastical and often the bizarre while we sleep. For Casey, this is investigated by the “piercing of the image with the needle and thread disrupts the photographic surface and also subverts the photographic message of the image.”

Patricia Casey’s exhibition, ‘Little Secrets’ at NG Art Gallery, Sydney, continues to explore the artist’s interest of interior worlds and intimate spaces. The subjects of her photographs are caught in a moment of private reverie, veiled in elements of the natural world. The familiar is manipulated and transformed into a dreamlike tableau.

NG Art Gallery
4 to 22 March, 2014

The Thought Experiment, 2013, photographic montage on cotton, embroidery detail, 38 x 48cm. Ed of 5

The Keeper of Secrets, 2013, photographic montage on cotton, embroidery detail, 38 x 48cm. Ed of 5

Courtesy the artist and NG Art Gallery, Sydney