Deborah Hart's picks

birds nest close up
Fiona Hall, Tender, 2003-06, Queensland Art Gallery I Gallery of Modern Art. The Queensland Government's Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund, purchased 2006.
Cabinet inside a gallery space
Installation view: Fiona Hall, Tender, 2003-06, Queensland Art Gallery I Gallery of Modern ArtThe Queensland Government's Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund, purchased 2006

Fiona Hall, Tender, 2003-06

Fiona Hall’s practice is about making and materiality – the impact people, particularly colonial cultures, have had on the environment and natural habitats. Here, Hall plays with the idea of tender – as in currency, but also tenderness, with shredded bank notes that have been woven into exquisite, intricate bird’s nests. The work has this double meaning, as well as just being breathtaking to look at, as you analyse the incredible architecture of the nests – you can see the wonder of nature.

Indigenous artwork
Judy Watson, Waanyi people, canyon (detail), 1997, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2003

Judy Watson, Waanyi people, canyon, 1997

When Waanyi woman Judy Watson creates, she considers the marginalisation of her people, environmental issues, matrilineal connections, and her deep connection to place and ancestors. At nearly 6 metres tall, you can see and feel the powerful presence of this large scale work from a distance as you enter the exhibition – it takes you right into this idea of a canyon enveloped in luminosity, and embodies the artist’s profound respect for Country.

Wall with artwork featuring people and clouds
installation view, various works, Rosemary Laing, flight research and bulletproofglass series, 1999-2002

Rosemary Laing, various works, flight research and bulletproofglass series, 1999-2002

It has been a dream to bring Rosemary Laing’s iconic images from her flight research and bulletproofglass series together for the exhibition, where Laing has captured the bride literally in mid‑air, seeming to defy the laws of gravity – and by implication – any strictures of her marital status. These photographic images were not digitally manipulated. Instead the artist worked with a stunt woman to create these performative works. The uncanny freedom of the woman levitating above the landscape shifts our understanding of space, time, and relationships. Hung at various heights up the wall, Laing worked with us on the installation, so that the display made it feel as though the brides are really unfettered and flying in the space.

Elspeth Pitt's picks

black and white image of female performer
Jo Lloyd, Archive the archive, 2020, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, performance commission generously supported by Philip Keir and Sarah Benjamin and The SUBSTATION.

Jo Lloyd, Archive the archive, 2020

Archive the archive is inspired by the life and work of Philippa Cullen, a performance artist, dancer and choreographer who sought to generate sound through the movement of the body using early electronica and theremin, a musical instrument controlled without physical contact. Despite the originality of her art, Cullen is now little known, having died prematurely at the age of 25 in the mid-1970s.

Artworks on wall
Installation view: Frances Phoenix Budden, Mary’s blood never failed me & Get your abortion laws off our bodies, c. 1977-1980, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2019

Frances Phoenix Budden, Get your abortion laws off our bodies, c. 1977 – 1980

A pioneering feminist and gay rights activist, Frances (Budden) Phoenix was one of several artists who sought to retrieve, teach and elevate the domestic crafts of lace and doyley making during the 1970s and 1980s. She often embedded political messages in her work, challenging the idea of craft as a purely decorative form.

Artwork of nine women
installation view: Julie Rrap, Persona and shadow series, 1984, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Julie Rrap, Persona and shadow series, 1984

During the 1980s Julie Rrap began a major group of works based on 19th and 20th Century art history. In Persona and shadow she reworks paintings by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch that portray physical and psychological states. Placing an image of herself within the painting, Rrap ‘shadows’ Munch’s subjects: sister, siren, pubescent girl, artist, Christ, Madonna, Pietà, sleeping woman and old woman.