Samantha Everton Sang Tong Video
Samantha Everton has an avid following for her elaborately staged and highly theatrical photographs. Her mesmerizing images deny linear explanations, seemingly hovering between the real and the imaginary, waking and dreams.
Her latest series, Sang Tong, is a series of portraits of young children adopted from Thailand and now living in Australia, including Everton’s son. Everton captures the children in fantastical scenes that reflect their innermost thoughts and emotions, bringing to life a hyper-real version of each child’s personality.
The title of the exhibition is from an old Thai folk tale, Sang Tong – the Golden Shell. Sang Tong was born into royalty but abandoned and later adopted by a giantess, who disguised herself so that the boy would not feel like an outsider. At age 10 he found out he was adopted and fled to explore his surrounds. He submerged himself in a well of silver and gold, emerging with a beautiful golden body. He also puts on a magical mask, which disguised him as an ugly person. Sang Tong later encountered a princess who sees past the disguise and falls in love with the beautiful man within. The tale’s themes of adoption, escape, disguise and inner beauty are all pertinent to the narrative concerns in Everton’s new works.
These are pictures of a secret universe within the psyche and as such, the imagery assumes a theatrical dimension more akin to that seen in dreams than waking life. The children appear to hover in an indefinite space of amplified colouration and streaming runnels of paint that seem to pulsate, vascular-like. There is a sense of holding time in timelessness as a hyper-real version of each child’s sense of self is manifested. Visual ambiguities tease the imagination, offering a multiplicity of possible readings. “I want the viewer to feel drawn into the story”, Everton explains, “but I like it to be open-ended, with a sense of incompleteness or mystery that leaves one wondering what happens next. For this reason I rarely have the subject looking at the camera.”