Pam Glew

Pam Glew

BBM: Hi Pam. This is your first time exhibiting in Australia, correct?
PG: Yeah it is. This is actually my first show in the Southern Hemisphere entirely.

You exhibited a lot in the United States, haven’t you. Why is that?
I think it’s because I tend to use a lot of American flags in my work. American flags were the first flags I used, just because there was an abundance of them. I guess also because they love their flag over there, don’t they.

The Aussies seem to love their flags too.
Yeah they do. Australians are quite proud of their flag, but you don’t see as many flags out on the street like you do in the US, where whole neighbourhoods have the flag flying.
In the UK, the Union Jack tends to be connected with mod culture and that Quadrophenia thing. You look at the 1960s with the Union Jack and there’s definitely an era when it was popular.

Pam Glew What was it that started you off using the flags in the first place?
I used to work on copper and I was looking for a new medium that wasn’t so heavy and bulky. So I wanted to work on fabric. Also 9/11 happened and I was very interested in that fear culture surrounding terrorism and I wanted to do some shocked, scared-looking women on American flags. It was a slightly subversive thing. Now it’s turned into more a celebration of flags, I guess. I’m making them with a lot more love and care because I’m interested in the heritage and how people identify with their own flag.

So the flag is as much a focal point of your work as the portraits on them?
Yeah it’s as important. It’s quite laborious the making of the flags – they’re heavily sewn and quite crafty. But the actual painting is quite quick – it’s just sponging on bleach, quickly rinsing it out and then waiting until the next day to do another layer. There’s a about five or six layers of bleach on them so they’re heavily washed.

Your work is also known for it’s use of women from movies.
I tend to be quite selective of the films I watch. They tend to be 1960s or 70s horror and also 1940s film noir. So those femme fetal characters – they’re either really strong, powerful women, like in film noir where they’re a bit deadly, like in Double Indemnity. Or the central role of a woman in horror films where they’re a bit scared and play more the victim.
Once you take a screen still from a movie and put it in a painting, it ends up being a lot more distorted and changed, so it stops being a reference to the original movie and becomes its own thing.

So is Luminaries a conscious change to a more pop-style?
I think so. After 9/11 my work was quite angry and horror-related. But now, by not being so engrossed in the American flag, and with Obama in charge, I’ve probably got a more positive outlook on flags, and of America. Artists often work on the zeitgeist feeling of what’s going on in the world, so now it’s a bit more positive.
Luminaries is quite a positive outlook and I think of Australia as quite a positive country.

Pam Glew’s exhibition Luminaries is presented by Bicker Gallery can be seen at 443 Oxford Street, Paddington, Sydney. It runs until Saturday 22 May 2010.