Damien Shen

Artist Damien Shen isn't limited to a single medium, rather his practice explores imagery, deconstructing the world around him in order to understand his identity and that of those around him.

In his upcoming exhibition, ‘On the fabric of the Ngarrindjeri Body – Volume II’ at MARS Gallery, Melbourne, Shen engages with black and white photography to create ‘vintage style’ portraits in an attempt to navigate the historical  objectification of Aboriginal culture.

A highly personal examination, Shen is a South Australian man of Ngarraindjeri and Chinese bloodlines, and the photographs revisit the history of his people. “Through a series of studio made photographs in collaboration with Richard Lyons (born 1967), I have simultaneously explored both a genuine documentation of my Aboriginal identity and the objectification of my culture through studio ‘vintage style’ portraits”, Shen outlines.

Both the photographer and the subject, the process was all consuming for Shen from research, to execution of the photo shoot, as he outlines, “After talking about past times with Ngarrindjeri elder, my Uncle Moogy (Major Sumner), we photographed a number of the candid ‘behind the scenes’ shots with him to show the juxtaposition between the ‘Cultural Hero shot’ and the continued fight to keep our culture alive within a man-made setting. This was the first time that I personally had been painted up in the Ngarrindjeri way.”

As the viewer it is special to be privy to such a sacred practice, and the main subject, Major Sumner. “What we captured was incredibly special. Not only is it a special moment in time for myself, it captures a Ngarrindjeri cultural icon of South Australia, Major Sumner, as he shares his time and knowledge with me. I felt empowered through this process of learning and spending time with my elder”, states Shen.

Considered and poignant, the photographs reveal a cross-generational understanding, a communication of ideas, and a shared acknowledgement of the importance of the continuation of their culture in a contemporary setting.

With a practice that ranges from drawings to bleeding water colours and smooth oil paintings, Shen is driven to question and understand the paradigms and narratives that shape the world in which he lives.

ON THE FABRIC OF THE NGARRINDJERI BODY – VOLUME II opens Saturday, 3-5pm.

EXHIBITION
Damien Shen |ON THE FABRIC OF THE NGARRINDJERI BODY – VOLUME II
3 – 24 September 2016
MARS Gallery, Melbourne

Courtesy the artist and MARS Gallery, Melbourne.

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