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Pictures Unknown

May 7th 2012 | Jake Millar

Photography exhibition They Speak In Tongues Unknown aims to test our preconceptions of what is attractive. Jake Millar chats with artist Marijke Loosjes.

'I don't know much about art, but I know what I like.' It's an old chestnut, a phrase gallery visitors have been uttering for as long as there have been galleries at all. Everyone has their own ideas of what they like, what looks good, the kind of things that appeal to them – and, of course, the things that really don't. It's these preconceptions that photographer Marijke Loosjes seeks to challenge with in They Speak In Tongues Unknown, a solo exhibition of her work being held at Sydney's ESP Gallery in Marrickville as part of Sydney's Head On Photo Festival. It's intriguing, it's provocative, and it's certainly not to be missed.

“The idea behind the show is just looking at the taboo and the abject in our society and bringing it more to the surface,” explains Loosjes of the exhibition that includes two different bodies of her photographic work. “The first I started towards the end of university and is just sort of a range of different images of scenarios. They're arranged three by three, but they kind of work as one whole image.

“The second body of work is around a similar theme, but it's all new work that I've done this year. I have some scenarios that might seem slightly off-putting, but with the technique I've used to captured them, people don't always recognise that at first,” says Loosjes of the images in the show, which challenge the viewer's preconceived ideas of what is attractive or appealing.

“I've noticed colour plays a big part because it attracts people, but once they get closer they realise some of the shots are of things that aren't stereotypically beautiful.” And she's not kidding. Included in the mix are images of things such as road kill.

This show is just one of some 200 events taking place at over 100 venues around Sydney for the mammoth Head On Photo Festival, which although only around since 2010 is already the world's second-largest festival of its kind.

Loosjes studied Fine Art at Curtin University in WA, and although she dabbled in installations and performance, photography has long been a passion. She currently works in both colour and black and white, making use of everything from 35mm film to digital prints. “I actually prefer 35mm because I think it's got this amazing, beautiful quality that digital can imitate, but it's just not the same,” she says.

And right now, Loosjes has a lot on her plate. As well as her photographic exhibition, she is also curating a group show at Perth's Firstdraft Gallery and says while photography certainly remains her passion, curating also has its appeal. “This is my first go at it,” Loosjes says of her foray into curating. “I'm quite interested in studying in Berlin at the Node Centre for curating. I got told quite a lot in university that I had an eye for putting things together and that's stayed in the back of my mind and I thought I should do something with it.”

But Loosjes has no plans to put the camera down just yet. “While I'd really love to study curating, I still want to continue my own practice. I'm always taking photos and it's something that I'll definitely continue to do – I can't really help it.”

Exhibiting at ESP Gallery, Marrickville until 20 May.

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