Tracy Dods

At first glance, you could mistake Tracy Dods’ work – with its recurring motifs of businessmen walking into, or being consumed by, the sea – as bleak. Look a little bit closer and it’s anything but. If Dods is writing a letter to the world, its principal subjects are serious, but its tone is often whimsical, sometimes wryly comical. Look at the gormless faces on so many of her subjects. These are, or represent, the most powerful people in the world – and yet they seem to have no idea what they’re doing or how they got where they are – to their position of influence or ankle-deep in rising oceans (and quite possibly both). Dods lives in New South Wales and spends much of her time in Sydney, observing the people she paints in zones of urban activity and transaction like Martin Place. This helps her to create work of the most striking contrasts. On top of the brilliantly coloured beauty of Sydney’s waterscapes she often places monochrome figures, resplendent in their hoary, frazzled, stunned-mullet ugliness. When these businessmen are attached to colour it’s wildly out of place: lime-green sand-castle buckets, jolly-pink inflatable rings and umbrellas the colour of boiled lollies. These figures are usually alone – in many cases disoriented; in some, pathetically attempting to maintain their dignity – but when they are in groups they seem to be conversing in the language of collusion… or boardroom bullshit.    And yet Dods offers enormous space for empathy. Underneath the vampiric gowns and the un-beach-like posture many of her subjects look utterly lost. Perhaps the most amusing element to her work is the fact that Dods says she sells most of her pieces, especially all of what she calls the ‘Barrister series’, to large law firms and bankers or to retired professionals from both these disciplines. There’s something slightly disconcerting and wonderfully apt about that.

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