Magda Matwiejew exhibition En Pointe at Karen Woodbury Gallery is an exhibition comprising of a film projection and twelve digital prints. In a career based in a painting tradition, Matwiejew has successfully re-invented her practice in the past six years, now exclusively working with digital media.
Significantly recognised for her award winning film Insect (2007), Matwiejew has exhibited widely internationally at various experimental film festivals.
En Pointe features her film Pretty Ballerina, her seventh film. Pretty Ballerina focuses on ideas of beauty and pain. Centred around a ballerina’s journey in mastering the art of ballet, the protagonist experiences much joy and freedom through the practice of dancing. Over time, this joy is slowly destroyed as the ballerina descends into excruciating pain while trying to perfect her En Pointe technique, ultimately becoming trapped by her ballet shoes.
Notions of perfection, pleasure, distortion and suffering are all explored within Matwiejew’s work. The classical dance of ballet, characterised by precision of movement and elaborate formal gestures, is examined as a vehicle to explore the way humans extend and place unreal demands on the body’s limits in order to express higher values. In this way the depiction of the ballerina appears to exist beyond mortal expectation embodying an ethereal grace.
In Matwiejew’s characteristic fashion, the film is set outside of real time, spanning over centuries in an effort to convey the history of the ballet dancing tradition and ongoing obsession for an ideal dancing perfection. Chronological slippages are signaled throughout the film with drifting transient clock faces that indicate the year in order to contextualise certain scenes.
Pretty Ballerina is partly animated with live footage both still and moving such as time-lapse footage of clouds and snippets from a performance of Swan Lake. The combination of a range of interweaving source material successfully creates an integrated whole. Removed from everyday life, this period style genre reveals a modern emotion and is offered as a form of escape through the entrancing fluidity and enticing seduction of the filmic experience. Not intended as a literal discourse about ballet in itself, Pretty Ballerina borders on a number of territories and is rather a meditation on ideas of female beauty, employing ballet shoes as a metaphor for these ideas.
Pretty Ballerina focuses on a ballerina’s journey in mastering the art of ballet over time. The ballerina experiences much joy and freedom through the practice of dancing. Over time, this joy is slowly destroyed as the ballerina descends into excruciating pain while trying to perfect her ‘en Pointe’ technique, ultimately becoming trapped by her red ballet shoes. She is unable to stop dancing once she puts on these shoes.
The classical dance of ballet is examined as a vehicle to explore the way humans extend and place unreal demands on the body’s limits in order to express higher values. In this way the depiction of the ballerina appears to exist beyond mortal expectation embodying an ethereal grace. In Pretty Ballerina, this desire is highlighted in the expectation to dance en Pointe; often an extremely painful and near impossible experience.
The film spans over centuries in an effort to convey the history of the ballet dancing tradition and ongoing obsession for an ideal dancing perfection. Opulent and ornate 18th century settings are initially portrayed. Like icons of beauty, women hover and disappear dressed in immaculate classical costumes postulating and fanning themselves.
The spectacular beauty of the main character, the ballerina, is accentuated with the use of romantic female imagery. Gliding seamlessly throughout a range of historical settings, a magical fairy-tale feel is captured. The ballet dancer’s allure is heightened by her flawless pure white porcelain skin, stunning appearance and striking red hair. The colour red is utilised as a strong theme throughout the film specifically in the red ballet shoes, dresses, lipstick and velvet curtains that conjure and convey mixed cultural meanings of love, passion and danger.
Rather than a literal history of ballet Pretty Ballerina is primarily a meditation on ideas of female beauty, and human perfection
Born in Wangen, Germany in 1956, Magda Matwiejew arrived in Australia in 1958.
She lives and works in Melbourne.
Since her first solo show at Pinacotheca, Melbourne in 1979, Madga has exhibited at Realities Gallery, Melbourne; Luba Bilu, Gallery, Melbourne; and Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne. Notable among the solo exhibitions showcasing her more recent digital art practice.
An agoraphobic and disfigured young woman descends into an increasingly intense & fragile fantasy world. To help her feel less isolated she was then given a computer by her social worker. After which she visits a matchmaking site where she starts a cyber romance with a man, remaking herself as a sexy and beautiful exotic dancer.
They both fantasise madly about each other and fall in love on line.
Vavara Beyond Memory 2005 6.49 mins
Arabesque 2006 8.47 mins
Insect 2006 4.22 mins
Broken Spell 2007 4.03 mins
dot com 2008 6.50 mins
Journey From Pinsk 2009 9.10 mins
Pretty Ballerina 2010 7.30 mins