Aesthetica Art Prize:
Surreal Photography

Surrealism started as a movement in 1924, with the publication of poet André Breton’s first Manifesto of Surrealism. The followers of the genre present reality in an altered way, constructing imaginary scenes. Such images are often inspired by dreams and phychological explorations, and delve into the unconscious. Distorted subjects appear in bright coloured abstract places, elsewhere various objects are matched up for peculiar tasks. Our list presents photographers and digital artists form the Art Prize who create whimsical scenes. Besides visual escapism, and enjoyment of humorous compositions, some of these works also thematise social issues through playful symbolism; some of these are domestic abuse and loneliness.

Julia Fullerton-Batten, 2023

Contortionism is one of the oldest art forms, dating back to ancient civilisations, and requires years of discipline and training. Fine art photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten’s Contortion was inspired by feelings of extreme anxiety and loneliness offset by inner strength, humour and fortitude as the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Each image embellishes the subject matter in a series of thought-provoking narrative “stories” that use staged tableaux and sophisticated lighting techniques. The artist insinuates visual tensions in her images, teasing the viewer into re-examining the picture. | @julia_fullertonbatten

Priscilla Ong, 2022

A visual artist based in Singapore, Priscilla Ong spent the last decade engaging in travel photogra­phy, but has since pivoted towards conceptual still life since the pandemic. Whilst at home during the lockdown, she began to explore a different genre, channelling her creative energy into photographing inanimate objects, ma­nipulating and re-conceptualising materials to give them a new meaning. Her work focuses on colours, minimalism, visual puns and surrealism. Ong is driv­en to find beauty in the everyday. Her aim is to provoke a reflective thought or, even just to inject a smile in the viewer, if only momentarily.

Jada + David Parrish, 2022

These images are from a 100-set project where Jada + David Parrish built and photographed 100 sets in one year, assembling bright scenarios where characters are confined, lost and found in moments of celebration, despair, happiness and cu­riosity. Jada + David are mixed media artists whose work explores the connection between painting, sculpture and photography. They construct sets that manipulate perspective and create optical illusions. These situations blur the line between reality and dream worlds whilst high­lighting elements of the human condition. | @jadaanddavid

Todd Antony, 2021

Bolivia’s Cholitas Luchadoras first began practising their craft in the early 2000s when a group of women created a group of Luchadoras inspired by Mexico’s Lucha Libre style of wrestling, characterised by “high-flying maneouvers.” This group was partly for recreation and entertainment, but also as a way for women who had suffered domestic abuse to take out their frustration. The work is powerful, liberating and reflective of the continuous struggle worldwide for gender equality. Las Cholitas Voladoras (The Flying Cholitas) reminds us that we must keep speaking up for women. | @toddantonyphoto

Fern Berresford, 2020

Fern Berresford is a storyteller, engaging with film, music videos, TV commercials and photography. Each of the artist’s projects has a distinctive visual style, often involving bold characters that belong to fantastical and wonderful worlds. Time To Reign is a photo series that comments on the cyclical nature of fashion and trends. It celebrates the 1990s sports fashion, infused with baroque aesthetic. Working class meets high art, merging the old with the new to create something extraordinary. The series raises questions about the nature of fashion and the ever-changing qualities of popular culture. | @fern_b


Image credits:

1. Images courtesy Priscilla Ong.

2. Julia Fullerton-Batten, Ella Whipp Dance (detail). From Contortion (2021). Lambda C-type print. Dimensions variable.

3. Priscilla Ong, Razor Hands If You Are Amaized. Images courtesy Priscilla Ong.

4. Jada + David, Missing Pixel (2021). Digital photography, plywood, latex paint. 55.6 cm x 37.07 cm.

5. Todd Antony Las Cholitas Voladoras – The Flying Cholitas

6. Fern Berresford