Hazel Dooney

Ashley Crawford, The Sunday Age Agenda, 26 September 2004

These works carry the subversive and slick trademarks of contemporary consumer culture. Her work comes across as an intense exploration of personal eroticism filtered through a candy-coloured palette.

In Chuck Palahniuk's infamous book Fight Club, adapted as a movie with Brad Pitt, the protagonist goes up against an awesome foe: himself. Palahniuk's surreal investigation into a form of narcissistic schizophrenia is set in a dystopian, nihilistic world where physicality is more a concept than a reality.

Hazel Dooney's paintings have for some time presented renderings of the artist herself in highly physical poses. Her early work seemed desperate to make a statement about the artist's physical manifestation, a pseudo-feminist, proto-pop pastiche that achieved little more than coming across as dubious rip-offs of Roy Lichtenstein's famous comic-book style.

Dooney's early career was desperately hyped in the marketplace, leaving the young artist some-what conflicted. That conflict has led to a surprising new body of work that, though reminiscent of Fight Club, she has dubbed Self vs Self.

Seven paintings, rendered with high-gloss enamel and reflective vinyl on board, present a battle that is both sexual and psychological. The figures struggle against a backdrop of brightly coloured explosions, locked in a martial marriage and struggling for control. The sensuality of the figures is balanced with bare-toothed grimaces as fingers gouge and arms are twisted. Breasts are bared and nipples jut aggressively while the eyes become cat-like slits.

That these are self-portraits is abundantly apparent, but they also work as projections on the viewer, hinting at the conflicts most people carry. Her work comes across as an intense exploration of personal eroticism filtered through a candy-coloured palette.

Dooney's influences are clearly apparent: the American artists Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol; the garish colouration of Japanese Manga; graffiti and avant garde fashion and the advertising and cheesecake pin-up girls from the '30s, '40s and '50s.

Zoe Mozert was probably America's most famous female pin-up artist. During the 1930s she painted hundreds of magazine covers and movie posters. Dooney and Mozert both frequently use themselves as models; however that is where the similarities end. Mozert's romantic portraits were painted in an almost realist fashion, with an overly sweet and unchallenging softness. Dooney's are deliberately provocative.

The black linework is a key factor in the sense of movement Dooney's work achieves. Her studies are juxtapositions of photographs, drawings, whiteout and collage striving for larger-than-life, super-real perfection in an image.