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Peter Callas

Curtain (1980), 4:00 mins, Sydney.

Curtain is an early experimental work in which Callas’ physical presence is of central importance. In this work, close-ups of the artist’s face are intercut by a photograph of a night time streetscape illuminated by street lights. The filmed movement of transparent layers of lithographic film over one another produces an interaction between the dots which comprise the images, creating moiré patterns which swirl phantasmagorically over the seemingly banal imagery.

Autobiographical in reference - specifically, to the Callas’ childhood in the western suburbs of Sydney - Curtain effects a dual process of revelation and concealment via face and image. References to the artist’s father appear in snatches of dialogue which accompany the work, the work’s title - ‘curtain’ - functioning as a metaphoric point of entry into the past. Memory and remembrance form recurrent themes in Callas’ works from earlier, more personal pieces such as Curtain to later, more overtly political works.

The sense of doubling - achieved via the use of luminance-key technique - is conveyed visually via the layering of image within face, and the appearance of face through image. In this way, the artist’s face acts as both a concrete cue for memory and a blank slate onto which nostalgic evocations are projected. Curls of cigarette smoke from between the artist’s lips add a disorienting note whilst setting up a literal ‘smoke screen’ beyond which real - or imagined - imagery is revealed.1

  • 1. Rachel Kent from “Peter Callas: Initialising History, video works 1980-1999”
Still frame from Curtain (1980) (c) Peter Callas
Still frame from Curtain (1980) (c) Peter Callas