Layla Rudneva-Mackay

(New Zealand 1975 – )

She told me smiling, we live on the other side of the Ford. On the other side of the Ford lies Kupe's kumara patch

Not on display
Further information

Born in New Zealand in 1975, Rudneva-Mackay graduated with a Master of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, in 2006. Her photographic works are deceptively simple, even consciously childlike, in their humorous, snap-shot-esque style, ‘trompe l’oeil’ composition and hand-painted fluorescent frames.

Rudneva-Mackay’s use of long, abstract titles to describe her photographs infuses the works with a secondary layer of meaning in addition to the immediate visual response. This enables, writes Bronwyn Holloway-Smith in ‘Words, and the lack of them’ (, ‘a delicate connection between the worlds of both visual and written poetry’ to emerge. Titles like ‘We stand with the trees that are long, paced out and planted. We are like the trees? That are long paced out and planted and, She told me smiling, we live on the other side of the ford. On the other side of the ford lies Kupe’s kumara patch’, reveal a personal aspect to these enigmatic images.

Holloway-Smith writes about the artist’s ‘emphasis on the isolation of her subjects … feelings of loneliness and depression, the feeling of not belonging’. She implies these images – which conceal identity, whilst placing their subjects in nature and with other humans – could be metaphors for ‘a need for privacy’, of anonymity and of silence in this surveillance-heavy, image- and information- saturated world. Yet, what is also present in these images (notably in their silence) is the metaphor for the very natural human need of other humans and the support we provide one another.

Gerald Barnett poses an interesting idea in his text (, suggesting the concealment Rudneva-Mackay implements is analogous to the anxiety often experienced when ‘growing up’, mixing childhood games with adult mysteries and conjuring the comforting notion that ‘if they can’t see you, it means you can’t see them’. In terms of photography – whose ‘raison d’être’ is arguably revealing, seeing or, at least, visibility – this concealment, these ‘hidden’ subjects, beg myriad questions of their viewer.

type C photograph
40.0 x 40.0 cm sight; 42.5 x 42.5 x 1.5 cm frame
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Gift of Henry Ergas 2009. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.
Accession number