Anne ZAHALKA, Die Putzfrau (The cleaner) Enlarge 1 /1


Australia born 1957

Die Putzfrau (The cleaner) 1987
Collection Title: the series Resemblance
Materials & Technique: photographs, direct positive colour photograph Edition: edition of 20

Dimensions: printed image 80.0 h x 80.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: KODAK (Australasia) PTY LTD Fund 1988
Accession No: NGA 88.322
Image rights: © Anne Zahalka. Licensed by Viscopy

Having grown up in Australia with reproductions of European ‘old masters’ deeply etched in my memory, it was with familiarity that I viewed many originals in Berlin during a residency. Die Putzfrau (The cleaner) was produced as part of my exhibition there.

With the developing discourse around postmodernism and its strategies of appropriation, these works soon became part of the vernacular. Underlying these concerns was a desire to deconstruct the old masters, in order to understand and reproduce them within a contemporary context using a contemporary medium.

Die Putzfrau (The cleaner) is portrayed by a performance artist who was living and working as a cleaner in Berlin at the time. As she was originally from New Zealand, the kiwi fruit on the table is a reference to her homeland. The Walkman she wears is an anachronistic element used to disrupt a nostalgic reading of the image. The peeled lemon within Dutch still life is a symbol for deceptive appearance; it is beautiful to look at yet sour to taste. The images are deceptive, they play the game of artifice and resemblance where the models play themselves performing a role and where photography resembles painting. The pulled-back drape provides a space for the viewer to contemplate the distance that separates us from our past. All these devices enable the viewer to question and seek to understand the influence of European culture and the nature of its encumbent value system.

Anne Zahalka 2002

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002