Pub­lic works

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts - Bron­wyn Wat­son

Fiona Hall, Acan­thus mol­lis — Bear’s breeches (Ital­ian cur­rency) (2000-2002), from Leaf Lit­ter. Na­tional Gallery of Aus­tralia col­lec­tion. Pur­chased 2003. On dis­play, Wrong Way Time, NGA, Can­berra, un­til July 10. In 1999, Fiona Hall, who rep­re­sented Aus­tralia at last year’s Venice Bi­en­nale, made a visit to a re­mark­able gar­den in Sri Lanka, a gar­den that had a pro­found ef­fect on her.

Dur­ing that visit to Sri Lanka, Hall im­mersed her­self in the gar­dens of Lunuganga, the coun­try es­tate of renowned ar­chi­tect Ge­of­frey Bawa. It was there that she first con­ceived one of her most in­ven­tive works, Leaf Lit­ter.

Leaf Lit­ter com­prises more than 200 del­i­cate gouache im­ages of leaves painted on to ban­knotes from dif­fer­ent coun­tries. Each painted leaf cor­re­sponds with a na­tive plant from the coun­try on the ban­knote.

The work is now on dis­play at Can­berra’s Na­tional Gallery of Aus­tralia as part of Wrong Way Time, Hall’s Venice Bi­en­nale ex­hi­bi­tion.

This is the first time an en­tire Bi­en­nale ex­hi­bi­tion has been shown in Aus­tralia.

Fur­ther­more, it is be­ing shown along­side some of Hall’s works from the NGA’s own col­lec­tion, such as her witty and rather erotic sar- dine tins. When I vis­ited the ex­hi­bi­tion, Deb­o­rah Hart, the gallery’s se­nior cu­ra­tor of Aus­tralian art, showed me Leaf Lit­ter. It is an in­tri­cate, multi-lay­ered, two-di­men­sional in­stal­la­tion that oc­cu­pies an en­tire wall.

The artist has pre­vi­ously said, when ex­plain­ing Leaf Lit­ter, that plants have played a cru­cial role in the his­tory of coloni­sa­tion and the de­vel­op­ment of world economies.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees — or does it?” Hall asked. “But ev­ery­thing comes at a price, and now we are pay­ing heav­ily for over­tax­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and for cul­ti­vat­ing an ev­er­widen­ing gap be­tween rich and poor na­tions.”

Leaf Lit­ter has been in­cluded in the NGA ex­hi­bi­tion be­cause Hart sees it as one of Hall’s start­ing points, with sig­nif­i­cant links to the

Draw­ing in brush and gouache, 37.4cm x 48.4cm

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