ELIZABETH OPALENIK ‘UNVEILS’ MORDANÇAGE IN NEW EXHIBITION
By Robert Frolla
Photographic artist Elizabeth Opalenik, known for her work in mordançage, will open her latest exhibition, The Unveiling, at Fitzroy’s Colour Factory gallery tonight.
Opalenik’s work often features nude female figures, and captures the fluid and buoyant motions of these figures. Opalenik’s art has been praised for its poetic femininity and sensuality through the use of mordançage.
Mordançage is an alternative photographic process that alters silver gelatin prints to produce faded, oxidised imagery. Commercial artist Jean-Pierre Sudre is credited with creating mordançage in the 1960s, although it is based on the late 19th-century ‘etch-bleach’ process.
A photograph during the mordançage process is bleached for redevelopment, while the emulsion is lifted away in the shadow areas of the high-contrast gelatin prints. From there, it can be removed or manipulated however an artist wishes.
Opalenik was one of Sudre’s students in the early 1980s, and often attended many of his workshops with her own students until his death in 1997. She has gone on to produce her own unique stage of mordançage, which has been called ‘the draping effect’. Opalenik uses her breath and applies drops of water to create this effect, which in turn produces ‘draping’ edges that enfold her nude figures.
Born and raised on a farm in Pennsylvania, she uses her childhood experience –mainly images of rural America — as inspiration for her work. Opalenik has been a photographer for twenty-eight years.
The Unveiling opens tonight at 6pm and will close at 9pm. Entry is free, and there will be a door prize. Elizabeth will be present at the opening to talk about her work, as well as the history of mordançage.
Elizabeth Opalenik: The Unveiling
Opens tonight at 6pm
9 March to 1 April
409 – 429 Gore St Fitzroy
Robert is a freelance editor for Busybird Publishing, and has edited for Writers Victoria’s The Victorian Writer and Phantasmagoria Magazine.