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Q&A with artist Nasim Nasr

Nasim Nasr is one of the 15 artists whose work features in our exhibition Under the sun: reimagining Max Dupain's Sunbaker, held in partnership with the Australian Centre for Photography - on show until 17 April. Nasim Nasr gives us some insights into how she approached reimagining the Sunbaker image. 

When did you first encounter the Sunbaker and what were your initial impressions of it?

woman standing with hands in front of face

Nasim Nasr, Still for Eighty Years, production stills from video 2017. Courtesy and © the artist, 2017.

At the beginning of 2015 I was approached by ACP curators to respond to this image. I considered the project’s rationale for a while, and began shaping my ideas about how I might respond to it. I looked at this passive but inert figure, on the beach, in the sun, the body seemingly full of energy, as a classic expression of Australian beach culture and its inherent joys of freedom and leisure. This image represented and offered something completely different, coming from the Middle East where there is no such beach culture.

How did you reimagine the Sunbaker in your work?

When I arrived in Australia in 2009 I experienced a significant identity shift with my art practice, from painting and drawing to video art and photography - from naked bodies, to covered and self-censored works. I went to the first publicly declared nude beach in Australia, Maslin Beach, just south of Adelaide, where I took my first series of photographic works, titled Women in Shadow of the female figure completely covered by black fabric of the chador – this was the starting point in my practice in Australia.

What influenced the direction or medium for your work?

This first photographic series was of significant influence in my response to the project’s rationale. The historical Persian Sufi and Sama dance, its relationship to the sky and land through its meditative performance and its release of energy through movement - both spinning body, and hair - and the bath culture of the Middle East, further inspired this new work.

What challenges did you face in creating this work?

The challenges were practical. Driving to Culburra Beach, where the original image was taken, three and a half hours away for a day shoot with a sizeable production team, and with variable weather - clouds and rain, required improvisation and resolution.

Has creating this work changed the way you think about the Sunbaker?

I think we all respond to the moments when we create a work as a contemporary piece. As I feel the tension between East and West, that has always shaped my art practice, I endeavour to generate harmony within their authority. It’s for the audience to judge.

You can hear more from Nasim Nasr about creating her work here