In his series Beast, Gerwyn Davies unleashes his imagination on the subject of costume, writes Rachel Segal Hamilton
“Beast was created specifically for a solo exhibition at the Spiro Grace Art Rooms in Brisbane,” says Australian photographer Gerwyn Davies, who graduated from Queensland College of Art last year and is inspired by the experimental potential of fashion.
“The procedure of getting dressed is a transformative process. We are able to build narratives on to our physical selves and fabricate the person we project,” he says, explaining his fascination with fashion and identity. “There are limitless opportunities for reinvention and play, but generally we stick to the safety of the norm.” Beast is a challenge to that norm. “These are self-portraits in which I abandon functional, comfortable and socially accepted dress forms in favour of the imaginative.”
Davies created his costumes using everyday materials – astroturf, laminate flooring, mini disco balls and feathers – some of which were easier to work with than others. “I start in my studio, building a structure to wear before walking around in it for some time and getting a feel for it, allowing it to kind of direct me through the rest of the process,” he explains. “Inevitably, the materials dictate the majority of the shoot. This is a really rewarding and exciting way of working, but it results in a fair share of abandoned costumes that don’t make it to the imaging stage.”
Every background, like every costume, is unique, although Davies sought consistency across the series through lighting and framing. In some of the pictures his face is fully hidden; in others, only partially. “I often obscure the face, removing any cues that might portray an underlying self and detract from the construction of a new self,” he says. “While most of my time spent making work is based in construction and process, the medium of photography as the final output is still very important,” he adds. “That is what my work strives for: creating documents of these ambiguous beings and providing a moment of pleasure or humour or strangeness for the viewer.”