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