Old Gold | The Elms explores the presentation of the Victorian era using reverential portrait paintings and prints displayed within The Elms colonial cottage in Tauranga. My photographs show the relationships between aged, cracked and deteriorating canvas, the colonial context of the sitter and the jaded contemporary readings of these portraits. The portraits are presented in gold frames bestowing a sense of power, prestige and social importance to their subjects.
In each of these portraits their content is partially obscured and tarnished due to the nature of the oil paint cracking and deteriorating over time, raking light cast over the substrate and reflections. While these effects render the Victorian sitter partially absent within the frame, they portend what would lie ahead in terms of critiquing the values and structures of colonialist culture. For example a portrait shows marks on the canvas invoking injury to the sitter; another portrait shows a young woman seemingly floating and disembodied within a cloud of light; and the patriarch Alfred Brown, who built the cottage in 1847, hovers to one side gazing out into the unknown.
Each photographic print is presented A0 size to show hyper-real details in the rich kauri linings, textural details of the carved gilded frames and fine craquelure breaking the oil paint foreshadowing the demise of colonialist ideology.