Alexia Sinclair: Through the Looking Glass
Fine art photographer and digital artist Alexia Sinclair’s works are a curious mix of historical scenes and creative fantasy that combine show us the hedonistic beauty of power and corruption in the world’s Royal Courts.
In her series the Regal Twelve and the Royal Dozen, Sinclair recreates some of the most ruthless and fascinating royals and aristocrats dating back two millennia, in all their debauched and bejeweled glory.
In the Regal Twelve Sinclair has successfully juxtaposed historical figures such as Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), Alexandra Romanov (1872-1918) and a heavily pregnant Eleanor of Aquitaine dressed for battle (1122-1204) against current perceptions of female beauty and strength taking the viewer on an historical narrative that incorporates contemporary mores.
The Royal Dozen features “princes, warlords, dandies and diplomats”. Sinclair’s final line up starts with Hannibal (247-182BC) and ends with Napoleon (1769-1821). France’s Louis XIV (1638-1715) makes an appearance amongst others including Charles II “The Merrie Monarch” (1630-1685), Vlad Draculea (1431-1476) and Lorenzo de Medici “The Magnificent” (1449-1492). This collection, like the Regal Twelve, features her signature style bringing history and creative visual interpretation together.
Sinclair is as passionate about her art as her subjects were about ruling their empires. She may call herself a digital artist, but her artworks are so much more than digital manipulations and involve original photography, illustration costume and set design. They are intricately layered pieces where every last detail is considered with equal importance – where to put that final petal, leaf or pearl button – this is the level of detail Sinclair goes to when creating her fine artworks.
The scale of these images, in size and in content, transports the viewer - it is almost as if you can walk around in them so vast is the scope. Sinclair says children relate strongly to her historical works, perhaps because they are an audience whose imagination is yet to be constrained by reality.
While Sinclair may spend hours in the annals of history, she is a very modern woman and determined to do things her own way. Rather than opting for the easy way out and digitally creating the scenic backdrops for her artworks, Sinclair, an Australian who is based in Sydney, has travelled the world taking photographs of iconic palaces such as Versailles to ensure the authenticity and originality of her work.
It is rare to find any of the historical palaces in Europe deserted so often Sinclair has to shoot around tourists and return multiple times to get the right shot. She tells me, “I’ll find some beautiful hallway and there’s no one in there, but the moment I put my camera down to shoot, people crowd around me. Even if I am shooting a cracked wall they think there must be something fascinating about it. Everyone wants to mimic the photo”.
And it’s not just the tourists that can thwart her efforts. “I did get thrown out of the Marie Antoinette room in Dijon,” she laughs. “And once I saw this light through a doorway (in one of the palaces). I was carrying my camera and I wandered over and thought, oh god look at that room. I had this medium format camera without a tripod. I thought, I’ve got one shot, and I took it and the mirror dropped. Bang. The security guard came over and ushered me out”. She pauses then adds with a smile. “I’m the renegade”.
Sinclair is involved in every aspect of the works from conceptual illustrations to sewing costumes, building sets and even standing in as a model (she is Napoleon from the Royal Dozen series). The two series have taken seven years, Sinclair starting with fifty characters and finally bringing the list down to twelve for each collection.
“It’s such a huge part of history to cover and I want them all to be so uniquely different in character and in style,” she says of her selection process. “I can’t have all wicked Popes, that would be a whole series. So I pick the most wicked,” she laughs deeply and her eyes are bright with mischief.
Sinclair is carving her name internationally in the fine art photography world and recently launched an iPad App, “Homage” created by her production manager, and partner, James Hill, to reach further.
“Homage” features images of the Regal Twelve and Royal Dozen along with historical information on each character plus illustrations, lighting diagrams, explanations behind the symbolism in each artwork and behind the scenes video. In total there are around 60 pages of information making the App more like a highly interactive book. The “Homage” App is for iPad only as “iPhone and iPad owners are statistically more likely to spend money on these types of applications whereas on Android people are less so”.
As our interview winds up I ask Sinclair what’s next? Reluctantly she concedes she will have to leave her historical icons behind and read about them in her own time. Now she is planning to create a collection aimed at children.
“The market I seem to most excite is children. I want to create something where they can sit and go into the detail and get excited…I totally love what I do and to have people admire what you produce is such an enormous privilege,” she concludes.
Interview: Alison Stieven-Taylor