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For those of you who missed it, the above image was from the last day of the “Splinters of the Mind” exhibition by Neale Stratford. This exhibition was at it’s core an exceptional photographic reflection of the artist’s exploration of masculinity and gender roles merged within realities of legend, myth and well known popular culture. The psychological link between this artist and his work was well depicted through his self representation within the works as a figurine or in some cases simply a head. This surreal depiction of identity was a blend of his ‘dreams, fantasies, delusions, desires and uncanny abject thoughts from the depth of depression’ (excerpt from exhibition pamphlet) and it is through this representation we can see the artist is a complex and deep thinking individual. There is mention that Neale’s diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome was one of the driving forces that formed the unique perspective within the artworks as he aimed to identify the desire to put the ‘constraints of “normality” into context. While his Asperger’s makes him try to bring normality into context for himself and this shows through his work, I believe that everyone should attempt such self-exploration and examination as what is normal is often relative to the individual. My observations of his work were not that they were abnormal ideals, simply strangely compelling splinters of fantastical realities. The quirky, deep meaning works are not wrong or vulgar to view, instead they are staged in a way that seems harmonious and balanced.

The actual staging of the works should also be afforded mention because they were deliberately shrouded in darkness with low lighting drawing your attention to the imagery while the emphasized lack of any framing having the same desired effect. For those people who like the effect of installations, the lighting of the artworks meant the room was almost completely filled with the darkness, like the inside of a dark mind as you moved from thought to thought or in this case work to work. They were beacons of images that shone through the nothingness and yes through my words you can see that the simple display of the works has incited even my own imagination to write such fanciful comments on how the display made me interpret the exhibition. You can see that Stratford considered every single aspect of his exhibition to give the viewer the desired window into the splinters that are his minds eye. From display, lighting, installation and imagery his deep intentions are uniquely portrayed to show the audience a slice of himself. It takes great strength for anyone to reveal so much of themselves to strangers and his work portrays the kind of raw identity and thoughts of an extremely complex individual.

So for those who missed his work, you missed an exceptionally staged subject matter that has hint of familiarity and the quirky combined in order to create a world that captures your attention through the darkness. Of course, you also missed out on the amazing depiction of the Game of Throne’s interpretation and the occasionally exceptionally topless ladies that have roles in some of his works, which of course, are always a pleasure.

This exhibition was staged at the Latrobe Regional Gallery from 29th of March to 22nd of May 2016.

Check out Neale’s other works on his website¬†www.nealestratford.com

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