Brock Elbank: Beard1 Mar - 2 Apr 2016
Tuesday to Saturday from 11am – 5pm, or by appointment outside these hours. The phenomenon of facial hair has enjoyed a distinct renaissance over the past decade, serving to remind us all of the cyclical nature of fashions and trends. The beard has been worn and fashionably ‘owned’ by many over the years; the bushman, the scholar, the fin-de-siecle dandy, the hirstute industrialist, the mad-cap inventor, the lumberjack, the crazy, the homeless and the lazy. The beard has become loaded with the social and cultural weight of centuries of recognizable use by various subcultures. And in the postmodern way the beard, as a signifier, is now informed by this vast history. It has many meanings – and none. Its symbolic use has been subverted, re-imagined, contradicted and reworked. By recalling an earlier, less complex time, the beard has returned to become a contemporary, distilled and layered signifier of what makes an ‘authentic man’. Brock Elbank’s body of work reveals as much about his individual sitters as it does about our wider understanding of today’s masculinity. The viral uptake of Elbank’s images across the World Wide Web highlights his unique ability to capture this zeitgeist through the careful presentation of a very simple idea. By focusing on a particular feature that unites a cross section of people, Elbank is able to examine much broader social frameworks that deal with our collective understanding of male beauty and identity. Elbank employs the polished language of high-end commercial photography to present his portraits. His images are noted for the arresting gaze of the sitter, presented with a formality cognisant of more traditional forms of portraiture. Through this technique, Elbank finds unique beauty across generations and even genders. The simplicity and clarity with which he presents this is fast establishing him as one of the defining – and most recognizable – voices in international photography.