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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Rose, 2011 by Natasha Bieniek
Rose, 2011 by Natasha Bieniek

‘… it is a very serious thing to have been watched. We all radiate something curiously intimate when we believe ourselves to be alone’.

E.M. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread, 1905

Most of Bieniek’s subjects are reclining, but none are resting – they have in the artist’s words a ‘melancholia, restlessness and uneasiness'. Bieniek works in the 16th century tradition of the European miniature portrait, mirroring the size at which we again treasure, observe or share portraits – now on handheld devices. The miniature also forces you into an intimate encounter with the work and subject. Simultaneously, the keyhole perspective forces a tense acknowledgement of the subject’s private human moment of emotion. This discomforting conflation of the private and public image is symptomatic of a contemporary unease. Though laboriously working up the layers on the tiny faces of herself and her friends ‘where one mistake can throw the whole’ Bieniek recognises human fragility when captured in moments of feeling.

6 portraits

1 Indigo, 2012. 2 Magenta, 2012. 3 Peony, 2014. 4 Sienna, 2011. 5 Untitled, 2013. All by Natasha Bieniek.

Related information

Divide, 2011 by Sam Jinks
Divide, 2011 by Sam Jinks
Divide, 2011 by Sam Jinks
Divide, 2011 by Sam Jinks

In the flesh

Previous exhibition, 2014

In the flesh is an enthralling and immersive experience of contemporary art that confronts the concept of humanness and the experiences of consciousness and emotion. Featuring ten Australian artists including Jan Nelson, Patricia Piccinini, Ron Mueck and Michael Peck, the exhibition explores themes of intimacy, empathy, transience, transition, vulnerability, alienation, restlessness, reflection, mortality and acceptance.

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

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The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night
The National Portrait Gallery building at night

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

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