Tam Forsyth explores narrative, identity, and power through large, vivid oil paintings. He focuses on portraiture to explore agency and its agenda. Tam’s work was included in the 2012 ARTEXPRESS exhibition. He graduated from Southern Cross University with a Bachelor of Visual Arts in 2016, majoring in painting.
The body of work titled Keynes, Elizabeth, and Oedipus centres around problematic knowledge by appropriating the iconic Great Depression image of Florence Thompson (known as Migrant Mother, captured in 1936 by Dorothea Lange). The cultural representation of Migrant Mother is a disarray of problematic knowledge, including misrepresented Western archetypes, racial misidentification, and conservative patriarchal values.
The appropriation focuses on Elizabeth Chifley and the problematic knowledge that influenced her to avoid installing a hot-water tap in the Chifley’s kitchen. Elizabeth’s frugal nature was predicated on the spectre of the Great Depression. Interestingly however, according to Keynesian economics, reduction in economic consumption was a causing factor of the Great Depression. Therefore, by declining to install the hot-water tap, and not investing back into the economy, the Chifleys contributed towards the devaluing of supply by reducing demand.
The water tap cradled in Elizabeth’s lap links the artwork to the Chifley Home and to the Chifley’s contribution to economic deflation. In the painting, over her right shoulder is the figure of John Keynes, and over her left is the figure of Oedipus. Oedipus is symbolic of the individual’s role in engendering destiny. This mirrors Elizabeth’s decision not to install a hot-water tap, unintentionally contributing to that of which she was trying to avoid.
This body of work has been influenced by artists Ben Quilty, for his technical practice and evocative characterisation; Gerhard Richter, for his command over oil paints; Luc Tuymans, for his exploration into the power of banality and hidden narratives; and Mark Tansey, for his portrayal of conflicting modes of thinking and perspectives within a single canvas.
Keynes, Elizabeth, and Oedipus, 2018
Oil on board
140 x 100 cm