Valerie Sparks is a critically acclaimed photomedia artist. Her large-scale works on paper reference the utopian, hybrid landscapes of 19th century French scenic wallpapers. These immersive landscape compositions bring together multiple points of perspective, different locations, times of the day and seasons, collapsing geographical space and time. Iconic ancient monuments, motifs and natural forms from Asia and Europe sit side by side with contemporary Melbourne architectural landmarks, as varied as the Russian orthodox church in east Brunswick and Shri Shiva Vishnu temple in Carrum Downs. Sparks has spent years individually photographing all of the elements (buildings, sky, plants, birds and animals) that appear in her works. These myriad elements are arranged to create seamless but impossible places; landscapes that are familiar yet somehow non-specific, that appear so real that they should exist but couldn’t possibly.
The 19th century wallpapers Sparks’ works reference were created during a period of colonial expansion and explored fantasies of travel, influence and a fascination with the exotic. Sparks’ pastiches revisit these thematic concerns in a contemporary context, reflecting on the interconnected spaces and the complex relationships of contemporary global systems.
Currently undertaking a Masters of Fine Art at Monash University, Sparks’ has received grants from the Australia Council and Arts Victoria. In 2015 she was awarded the Colour Factory Honourable Mention in the Bowness Photography Prize, and has been a finalist in the Josephine Ulrick & Win Shubert Photography Award, Bowness Photography Prize, Fremantle Print Award. Sparks’ work is held in permanent collections including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Artbank and Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester UK.