April 11: Flowers

Date #11She would have smiled…

This morning Robert Nelson tweeted “Polixeni left nothing to do or be said, but a sorrowful emptiness now that she’s dead. (please, no flowers to the house)”

Last week Michael Reid’s Sydney gallery had opened an exhibition MY HEART – still full of her in which Papapetrou’s most recent, very different photographs were displayed.

Director Toby Meagher, said that this new work “fearlessly engaged with the reality of Poli’s own illness…”

Polixeni Papapetrou Thousand yard stare, 2018 silkscreen photograph on silver foil on Belgian linen 160 x 126 cm
Polixeni Papapetrou (2018) Thousand yard stare, silkscreened photograph on silver foil on Belgian linen, 160 x 126 cm

Silk-screened, slightly ‘distressed’, they are sombre. They are not the optimistic highly coloured, floral works of recent years in which her now 21 year old daughter Olympia’s face began once again to appear after the trauma of the 2008 controversy over child nudity in Australian photography. They comprise a tender dialogue between mother and daughter that has been revisited throughout Olympia’s life.

2017 Bowness Photographic Prize for her work Delphi, from her 2016 Eden series.
Polixeni Papapetrou (2016) Delphi, from the series Eden, winner of the 2017 Bowness Photographic Prize.

The Eden series announced a new lease of life, a short reprieve from cancer, and a fierce determination to go on.

The title of the show is extracted from the lengthy poem Souvenir by Alfred de Musset (1810–1857), published in Revue des Deux Mondes, Volume 25, January to March 1841 edition ;

Mon coeur, encor plein d’elle errait sur son visage,
Et ne la trouvait plus.

My heart, still full of her traveled over her face,
And found her there no more [..]

His words sit aptly beside these images with she which shaped her own obituary to an extraordinary force in Australian photography.

Ta fleur, hélas ! a la blancheur
De la désolante innocence ;
Mais de la craintive espérance
Ta feuille porte la couleur.

As-tu pour moi quelque message ?
Tu peux parler, je suis discret.
Ta verdure est-elle un secret ?
Ton parfum est-il un langage ?

from À Une Fleur Alfred de Musset 1838

2 thoughts on “April 11: Flowers

    1. Great to see your post Marcus. Prose is insufficient, and anyway can one possibly say more than Poli has herself in this prudently prepared and emphatically defiant new work? She has shown remarkable courage in facing death, and though it has snatched her away, to the grief of her family and so many who knew or admired her, she has defeated it with the power of her own art. She is an example to us as we quake at the idea of annihilation.


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