Australia & France: Phantasia

Artists: Magdalena Bors, Mark Kimber, Andrew Mamo, Alexia Sinclair and Simon Strong

Vivid, complex and magical, the works in this exhibition abandoned the traditional realm of the photographic – the real world – to conjure images of the fantastical. The exhibition took its name from an ancient word describing the artist’s inspiration for picturing the unseen. Pre-dating notions of creativity and imagination it is an idea closely bound with the concept of art as making.

The concept of ‘phantasia’ was proposed by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle to describe the way the mind makes images of things not directly in front of the eye. These could be memories of real events, projections of what is happening out of sight or purely imaginative inventions. Writing at a time when art was considered not as an act of creation but as the knowledgeable execution of a set of skills, the word ‘phantasia’ suggests both that artistry flows from the activity of making, and that memory and imagination are parts of the same process. The life of the mind is a world of images whose potency is not constrained by whether they arise from real experience or pure invention.

For each of the artists in this exhibition their enchanted image world is the result of highly skilled and detailed construction – either created as theatrical settings and then photograph or pieced together from hundreds of photographic fragments.


The exhibition was presented at the Australian Centre for Photography in May–June 2008, followed by a national tour. Phantasia was also presented in Paris as part of Photoquai, the festival of art run by the Musée du quai Branly. The picture above shows part of the installation at the Samstag Museum, Adelaide.


“A brilliant tour de force”

Sydney Morning Herald
ABC TV’s Sunday Arts program featured Phantasia while it was on show at the Samstag Museum, Adelaide.



Upper: © Simon Strong The Field 2006
Lower: Part of Phantasia installed at the Samstag Museum, Adelaide [photo © Simon Strong] Image taken with permission from the Samstag Museum


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  • The majority of the texts on this site are by Alasdair Foster and represent his opinions. However, in order to facilitate a useful diversity of views, some texts have been invited from artists and colleagues around the world, while others appear as independent comments. These opinions and comments are not necessarily those of Alasdair Foster or Cultural Development Consulting (CDC). All data and information on this site is provided on an as-is basis. While every effort is made to be as thorough as possible, neither Alasdair Foster nor CDC make representations as to accuracy, completeness, currency, suitability or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions or delays in this information or any losses, injuries or damages arising from its display or use.
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