A selection of images from two projects

Description

SPARE ROOM (1998 – 1999)
A selection of 5 images from a portfolio of 12 portraits.

NORTH SHORE FX (February 2009)
A selection of five images from a portfolio of 10 portraits.

Geoffrey Heath delights in the suburban. Earlier series like Circle of Love (2004) and For ever (2007) consist of highly conceptualized and meticulously fabricated scenes that are overwhelmingly ordinary and often tragically funny – think greasy chinned blind dates in polyester suits and wayward, black-eyed teens.

Viewing his latest series North Shore FX (2008), showing at McNamara Gallery in Wanganui, for the first time is like waiting for the punch line.Heath presents us with a motley crew of characters, each sporting an outlandish full face of make-up and some curious appendages.

A young woman sporting a pair of prosthetic horns and a bright yellow face peers out from behind her polar fleece vest. Is this a costume? Are these props or clues carefully selected by the artist? In fact, the subjects of North Shore FX are, in effect, a series of ready-mades; Heath was invited by a friend to document the results of a special effects make up class on Auckland’s North Shore.

Like his previous portrait series, Spare Room (1999), Heath carefully controls the presentation of his subjects, keeping personal attributes to an absolute minimum.

Photographed in a candid, documentary style, his sitters are positioned front-on in close up, staring directly into the lens. Are these portraits or purely objective documents? One can’t help but wonder about the sitters' personalities, hinted at by sparing personal effects.

Heath’s signature strain of domestic tragicomedy is still apparent in these photographs. The FX course is for beginners, not professionals. Thus the artist documents amateur makeovers – prosthetic horns, warty noses and pointy ears are attached somewhat clumsily. The make up effects are rudimentary at best and any sense of fantasy is confounded by the subjects' civilian clothing. In this way, Heath continues to toy with the surface of things. He uses the guise of objectivity to once again question the facades of some of the North Shore’s everyday inhabitants.

Serena Bentley 2009