An excerpt from:

Pamela Stretton

Gallery on the Square / Johannesburg by Robyn Sassen, Art South Africa, Vol 06 Issue 01 Spring 2007, pg 102

Stretton aligns women's self image with designer branding and with the labeling of cuts of meat. "Beef neck", "breast fillets", "beef rump", "deboned thighs" and "leg of lamb" take on different connotations when placed within seductively cropped images of the female form. She uses photographs of eating utensils as a visual marker. In this context, eating is about gaining or losing size and weight. Conventionally, women focus on measuring themselves with the perception that men attribute sexual value to the sum of a woman's parts. This representation of sexual currency is Stretton's primary focus.

Like Chuck Close with a feminist twist, Stretton meticulously compiles her large works with small components. The main figure in each work is occasionally so cropped it becomes abstract, but look closely, each comprises thousands of tiny units, intoning light and dark as pixels would do in a computer generated image. Look even closer, and these are not just units of tone, they are self-contained images, loaded with their own meaning. There is a kind of frenetic madness in the works using tiny representations of the faces of bathroom scales, the numbers on a tape measure, recording width and breadth, commenting on size and weight. This madness is also evoked in the works using designer logos as pixels.

Stretton's works are divided into square formats, some into small squares of nine, other into myriads of tiny oblong components. She laminates images printed on photograph paper to soft padding. The "puffy" effect has an odd tactility to it. It feels like it is made of plastic.

This superficiality is potent in commenting on women's conventional behaviour. The works using measurements convey the horror of obsession, in some respects evoking Annetta Kapon's Floor Scale (1991), an installation which fills the gallery floor with bathroom scales. The play of values reflected in the quiet ponderous drama of each of Stretton's images conflates with this freneticism, but the images retain a sense of prettiness - a deep and possibly intentional contradiction. One has to interact almost intimately with these images to gather their abject sense of horror and the criticism they articulate to a society obsesses with outward appearance.

2006 All rights reserved. Origination by Di Conradie.