Artists – Women, Art Gallery of South Australia

It’s a big year for women artists with the National Gallery of Australia showing, rather belatedly, a program featuring women artists called Know My Name. Works have been borrowed from around the country for the exhibition.

National Gallery of Australia
25.48% women represented (down from 27.12%)
72.97% men (up from 68.68%)
No data on non-binary artists recorded

The Countess Report 2019*

Meanwhile in other parts of the country State galleries are also turning their collective eyes to the work of female artists both within and outside of their collections. During a recent visit to Adelaide I took a look at the Art Gallery of South Australia’s offerings.

State galleries and museums continue to significantly under-represent
women in their collections and exhibitions.

In State galleries and museums the representation of women decreased
from 36.9% to 33.9% from 2016 to today.

The Countess Report 2019*


Leading the way in S.A. is this year’s Tarnanthi 2020: Open Hands exhibition, which is all by women artists


1. Warwiriya Burton, (born 1925), Pitjantjatjara people, Ngayuku ngura (My Country), 2018 synthetic polymer pigment on linen.
2. Warwiriya Burton, detail of No. 1

Warwiriya Burton, (born 1925), Pitjantjatjara people, Ngayuku ngura (My Country), 2018 synthetic polymer pigment on linen.
Detail of above.


3. Iluwanti Ken, (born c.1944) Pitjantjatjara people, 2030, Walawulu ngunytju kukaku ananyi (Mother eagles going hunting), pigmented ink on paper.

4. Iluwanti Ken, detail of No. 3

In the Chromotopia exhibition:


5. Naomi Hobson, (born 1978), Southern Kaantju/Umpila people, Touch the River Floor, 2019, synthetic polymer on linen.

Naomi Hobson


6. Virginia Cuppaidge, (born 1943), Second Transition, 1974

Virginia Cuppaidge


7. Annabelle Follett, (1955-2019), UN Knitted Forms, 2000, wool and plastic knitting needles

Annabelle Follett

Elsewhere in the gallery:

8. Dora Chapman (1912-1995), Head Studies, partial image, 1969 and 1970, gouache and polymer paint on board

Dora Chapman


9. Top, Grace Crowley (1890-1979), Abstract Painting, 1953, oil on hardboard;
Below, Dora Chapman (1912-1995), Abstract, 1943, synthetic polymer paint on board.

Grace Crowley
Dora Chapman


10. Bessie Davidson, (1879-1965), Artist’s paintbox with French coastal landscape, c. 1930 Guéthary, France, oil on wood panel in wooden artist box

Bessie Davidson

My completely subjective view is that the work of women artists is definitely more visible in the galleries that I have visited this year. But 25% National Gallery of Australia???

* The Countess Report

The Countess Report is Amy Prcevich, Elvis Richardson and Miranda Samuels.

They are an independent artist run initiative that publishes data on gender representation in the Australian contemporary art world. They believe a focus on gender is a focus on power.
Countess works in the legacy of institutional critique and research based conceptual art practices. Their goal is to inform and influence systemic change through data collection and analysis.
While their evidence is often cited, they are not data analysts. They are artists and activists who are interested in investigating dynamics of power, value, labour, and collecting through the lens of gender.
The work of Countess is both art and advocacy.

Drawing the exhibition – Bodies of Art

Bodies of Art: Human form from the national collection, is currently on display in the downstairs sculpture rooms of the National Gallery of Australia. I spent the morning there quietly sketching away. The exhibition is a stimulating mix of sculpture, paintings, photography and video works which provided me with lots of interesting compositions to work on.

My first sketch was a grouping of stone sculptures, Torso, 1948 by Rosemary Madigan and Number 24, Harry Boyd by Robert Klippel and a third piece, an Anthropomorphic monument [gowe nio niha], (19th century or earlier) from the island of Nias in Indonesia. I was instantly drawn to the sandstone used in the two Australian works. The deep gougemarks on the Klippel sculpture acted like lines drawn across the surface. In contrast the smoother texture of Madigan’s work supported the subtlety of her torso’s carved planes.

Left to Right, Torso; Anthropomorphic Figure; Number 24, Harry Boyd, graphite with added watercolour

Behind me was an interesting juxtaposition of a hanging work by Giulio Paolini, Aria (Air), 1983 and beyond that, Triptych, 1970, by Francis Bacon.

Paolini’s work consists of two photographs of a renaissance sculpture sandwiched between perspex and hang from a steel cable. The work slowly gyrates beneath the high gallery ceiling, while underneath lies a piece of shattered glass. Behind it hangs Bacon’s equally fractured figures, curiously feeling much more grounded and solid than Paolini’s figure does.

Giulio Paolini, Aria (Air), 1983 and Francis Bacon, Triptych, 1970, pencil with added watercolour

While I drawing the partial elements of the Bacon triptych into this sketch, I became quite intrigued by the figures in the work’s central panel. After a restorative cup of coffee and some biscuits in the Member’s Lounge I returned to my final sketch of the day, the detail of the central panel.

There is certainly scope for more drawing here, so I will plan to make it back there soon.

All the sketching was done in the gallery and the watercolour was added afterwards.

Three things I sketched today

Today I drew three things at the National Gallery of Australia.

The cancellation proof of David Hockney’s Portrait of Rolf Nelson, 1968, lithograph with hand colouring. The cancellation proof has red eyes and bow lips with a peace sign on the sitters shirt.

You can see the original version of the print here.

People sitting in the Members lounge.

A Gandaran Bodisattva, carved from grey schist.

Drawing the exhibition, Rodel Tapaya

Earlier this year we went to a talk at the National Gallery of Australia by Philippine artist Rodel Tapaya.  His work is an exuberant mix of the contemporary, political and the mythic. 

Modern Manananggals, 2013, wood, brass, silver, fibreglass, epoxy and oil paint

The sculptural work I sketched, above, of suspended figures holding suitcases comments on the impact on the children of parents forced to work overseas. He uses the image of the manananggal, the Philippines equivalent of the vampire. These creatures leave the lower half of their body behind, as they fly off nightly to drink the blood of pregnant women. The contention of this work is that Philippino parents earn an income by leaving their own children behind to work as carers for other people’s children.

Dr Sketchy and all that glitters

Last night my partner and I headed out to Dr Sketchy’s at the National Gallery of Australia. Like everyone at our table we were unsure whether there was a theme for the evening, until models in silver and gold paint appeared! Everything metallic and shiny was the story.

16June2016a

A model in gold, Posca acrylic markers

I decided to use my Posca markers for some of the sketches, particularly as they already had the seal of approval for use at the event. I liked using them, but realised I should have done some testing before I went. My yellow ochre marker, used above, just wasn’t flowing very well, so I ended up with a rather scratchy effect.

It was also a pleasure to see a male burlesque performer/model in the line-up. Sir Regal Shivers (and his dragon George) certainly got the audience shouting for more.

16June2016b

Knight, minus the shining armour, coloured pencil

We were also treated to performances from visiting interstate burlesque performers including the wild Zelia Rose, who was the 2014 Miss Burlesque Australia.

16June2016c

Zelia Rose, coloured pencil

The evening finished with the final group pose. I managed to only get two of the models into my sketch.

16June2016d

Final group sketch, coloured pencil

As always it was a tremendous evening. The output of all the participating sketchers was amazing and the performances particularly good. I’m looking forward to next time!