Tough Pleasures and Sublime Peril: Toni Wilkinson and Connie Petrillo at Art Collective WA

While Toni Wilkinson and Connie Petrillo exhibit vastly different versions of photographic portraiture at Art Collective WA, both are thought provoking and visually beautiful. 


Emilia with Hawaian Pack, 2022, archival digital print on Canson Photographique paper, 150 x 118cm by Toni Wilkinson.

Invisible Image 27, unique state ambrotype on glass, 50 x 61cm by Connie Petrillo. 

It is indeed a rare pleasure to see the works of Connie Petrillo in Sublime Peril, and Toni Wilkinson with Tough Pleasures on show at Art Collective WA. While both employ the medium of photography and depict portraiture, it’s here where they diverge in vastly different directions. Wilkinson’s work is loud, with more than a touch of the absurd, while Petrillo’s smaller, meditative works wait for you to discover the gradual invisibility of its subjects. 

Wilkinson’s domestic portraits portray conflicted dynamics of femininity and food in a roving food odyssey of suburban kitchens and lounge rooms, where the protagonists triumphantly display their culinary loot. Women are seen proudly clutching pineapples, draping their arms in prosciutto or balancing an entire lobster on their laps. The work revisits and adds to her 2003 exhibition of the same name which launched her career in contemporary art photography, and a new book featuring her work is also being released. Her works capture an often fraught feminine relationship with food, using pathos and comedy to deliver its punch line. 

Petrillo’s works are but a small selection of those created for her PhD and have never been shown publicly. She says the works were not shown due to the severe restrictions placed on galleries during COVID-19. She has since reworked and retaken the images with a Chamonix large format camera – to the uninitiated, the modern version of the large, early cumbersome cameras where photographers, covered by a dark cloth, blocked out light to see the image the lens projected onto glass slides. “The resulting ambrotypes, a process first used in 1851, are made up of molecules of the purest silver on glass,” she says. “They are unique, archival images on glass that will survive more than several lifetimes.” 

The valuable one-off process of each work seems entirely fitting for its subject matter. Petrillo’s work explores the culture of the gradual erasure of children in photography. Simultaneously conveying an atmosphere of presence and imminent disappearance, the tones in the works are grey, the contrast low and minimal colour is used. “Children are part of our rich, untidy and fulfilling emotional lives,” says Petrillo. “They exist in a social realm that has aesthetic as well as legal dimensions. A world of art without the image of the unruly child is a world of art that has lost connection with life itself.”

Tough Pleasures and Sublime Peril is on show at Art Collective WA from 11 March until 8 April.   


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