Andrew Hazewinkel

Contemporary Art

Australian Sculpture and Photography

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Andrew Hazewinkel
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A melding of photography and sculpture this large leather screen takes as its point of departure two small late 19th century photographs which depict Omphale a much-overlooked woman from classical Greco-Roman Antiquity. Omphale’s identity is established by the fact that she is represented with the classical attributes of Herakles. While little is known of this mysterious queen of Lydia (an Eastern Iron Age kingdom), most of what is known comes down to us through Greek mythology. In the Greco-Roman tradition the story most frequently associated with Omphale involves Herakles’ enslavement to her during which she requires an exchange of garments and a reversal of gendered social roles. Various renditions of the ancient narrative suggest that during the period of enslavement the hyper-masculine hero was required to wear women’s clothing and undertake activities like spinning flax, considered women’s work at the time; while Omphale, wearing his famed lion skin cloak, wields his olivewood club while engaging in men’s activities such as hunting.

Although well represented in ancient literary sources scant ancient material culture associated with the narrative survives. There is however a brief period in the history of Roman sculpture (created during the political transition from republican to imperial governance) in which we see wealthy Roman women responding to the changing legal, economic, and social status of women by commissioning portraits of themselves in the style of Omphale. Following this brief appearance, Omphale disappears again before emerging (albeit briefly) in 19th century European musical, sculptural and decorative arts contexts.

Parallel to highlighting concerns of power and the fluidity of gender-based identity, in Suspicious Marble (Omphale) Hazewinkel further explores a recurrent theme in his practice, the relationships between materials, the body and remembering. The two archival photographic images reinterpreted in this artwork depict a manifestation in stone of soft human skin around which is swathed the skin of another animal. By rescaling the original images to roughly human dimensions and printing them onto the skins of yet another animal Hazewinkel sets up a framework for considering how materials function in meaning making, and the role that our bodies play in generating and apprehending meaning. By presenting skin as both subject and object the artist points toward the theoretical concept of material semiosis wherein, for proponents of archaeology’s Material Engagement Theory, a material’s meaning emerges from the conceptual blending of one’s physical and mental responses to it during context specific engagements with it.


For further detail see the artist's writing on Suspicious Marble (Omphale) in relation to Material Engagement Theory in his essay From Limbo To Mashup and The Spell Of The Fake: Relating Contemporary Photographic Practice, The Photographic Archive and Material Engagement Theory. Download PDF here


 As a part of Hazewinkel’s ongoing research into the powerful and mysterious Omphale and why she is so little represented in the canon of Western Classical Studies, Suspicious Marble (Omphale) is related with his 2019 photographic work Disputed Becoming (Omphale, Herakles, Omphale) which can be viewed here


The archival source material engaged in Suspicious Marble (Omphale) were uncovered by the artist in a box titled Suspicious Fakes and Forgeries in the John Marshall Photographic Collection at the British School at Rome Photographic Archives.