This exhibition is based on crime scene photographs from the 1920s as featured in Peter Doyle’s books, “City Of Shadows” and “Crooks Like Us”. The police were the photographers, and the set of negatives that survive today show a very different side to crime, and photography. Off-kilter compositions, people caught half way between a smirk and the sideways avoidance of the camera's eye. Mug shots were taken if you were judged likely to be a reoffender. They were a resource and a classification system that arranged people according to their genre of criminality (petty thief, con-man, murderer). Inspired by these photos, which seem modern in their immediacy, and fascinated by the reality of a time when people owned few possessions, when you could go to gaol for thieving a lady's stockings, when running sly-grog was sometimes the only way to feed your family, and when women were convicted of stabbing their lovers to death — a time when ‘the women were shifty and the men were rats’— Cathy and Sharon have worked together to create an exhibition that reflects the complexity of the individuals, without the judgement of the time.
Influenced by the Australia painters Drysdale and Blackman, Sharon Kitching transforms the monochromatic seriousness of these characters into a colourful contemplation of the individual. Hat-hair, jug-ears, and the wary tilt of the head, all painterly executed, incorporate the flaws and marks from the negatives.
Cathy Weiszmann is a sculptor best known for her large bronze commissions of sporting identities at the SCG. Her personal work is small scale intimate bronzes and she loves an interesting face. Using this opportunity as a foray into the field of relief sculpture, Cathy has made hanging miniatures of feisty criminals that would have, back in those days, been rushed straight back to the cells.
Together these works extrude a sense of brutal humanity, and allow us a glimpse into the desperation of some of the characters of the past.