Marian Drew’s practice, spanning more than twenty years, is characterised by innovation and exploration of photo-media. Taken from the Australiana series, this highly regarded artist presents unsettling and beautiful photographs that serve as a reminder of the fragility of life and the impact that man has on our natural environment. The fallen bodies of indigenous Australian fauna are contrasted by the sensuous draped cloths, seductive colours and dramatic lighting. Her photographs have many layers of meanings and references, most obviously 18th Century still life paintings and the Vanitas of the 16th Century. Her work raises uncomfortable questions about contemporary relationships to animals and how we inherit and adapt cultural ideas. Other dualities are referred to: natural and artificial, contemporary and historic, life and death, and light and dark.
Early work of Drew’s explored the human-centric view of animals as disposable commodities – symbols of wealth to be enjoyed and controlled. Influenced by seventeenth-century Dutch still lifes, Drew arranged tableaux of native animal road kill lying on starched white tablecloths alongside fruit, vegetables and utensils. She photographed them in the dark, then stroked the scene with light as if her torch was a paintbrush. The resulting near religious images ensured that the animals’ senseless deaths did not go unnoticed and unmarked.
Her art work is held in collections that include the John Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Museum of Photographic Art, San Diego, National Gallery of Australia, Fonds National D’Art Contemporain (FNAC), Paris, France, Art Gallery of South Australia and the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Monash Gallery of Art, Queensland University Art Museum, Murdoch University and Artbank.
She has received several commissions that include the National Portrait Gallery of Australia, Brisbane Magistrates Court, Museum of Brisbane, Brisbane River Festival, and Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Great Walks, and completed Australia Council international residencies in New York 1989, 2011 and Los Angeles, 1994.