The view from here: a celebration of women artists at UNSW

27 Jul 2020
Seven Sisters (2019), by Sylvia Ken

A new online exhibition is part of a recent initiative to create a more balanced representation of women and Indigenous artists in the UNSW Art Collection.

Until quite recently the UNSW Art Collection, while impressive, had an issue with diversity.

Women artists have been historically under-represented and so in recent years, steps have been taken to address this issue by adding more works by women and Indigenous artists to the collection.

In celebration of some of these more recent acquisitions, the UNSW Art Unit, in collaboration with the UNSW Library, is today launching a new online exhibition, The view from here: Women artists in the UNSW Art Collection.

The exhibition was launched with the desire to share these newer works in the collection more widely, as well as draw attention to some of the existing works in the collection.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Equity Diversity and Inclusion Professor Eileen Baldry is delighted with the extraordinary works on show to the community.

“Art provides a unique means of understanding each other’s perspectives and to consider alternative points of view,” she said.

“It can be a space to explore ideas safely, to communicate with others and to share the experiences which unite us.

“This stunning online exhibition makes more widely accessible the work of 20 women artists and the remarkable stories behind them.”

The exhibition features 20 modern works from the 1990s up to the present day. 

Many different styles and forms are on show including bark paintings, textiles, photography and sculpture.

There are featured works from some of Australia’s best-known contemporary artists including Janet Laurence and Nonggirrnga Marawili, as well as artists such as Hayley Millar-Baker and UNSW Art & Design graduate Louise Zhang who are just beginning to make their mark.

Chinese-Australian artist Zhang draws on her experiences as a ‘third culture kid’ to create works of art that bring together her Chinese and Western identities.

Zhang’s works include painting, sculpture and installations, and she uses a distinctive pastel colour palette across her work.

Zhang’s painting The pure land (2018), selected for The view from here exhibition, uses oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas.

The pure land (2018), Louise Zhang
The pure land (2018), Louise Zhang
Oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas UNSW Art Collection. Purchased 2019 (P 2019/1152)
© Louise Zhang


The exhibition website breaks down the work and its context.

The pure land draws on [Zhang’s] cultural influences, conflating their meanings and offering new ideas and perspectives.

“She has depicted visceral blob forms in pink, opaque chalky green and soft lilac with floral forms like chrysanthemums overlaid across the surface of the work, the composition grounded by two circular shapes which echo the sun and the moon.

“These misshapen objects fall in and over one another with a sense of amorphic, autonomous energy, suspended in the middle of the pictorial plane.

“This use of colour and form strategically seduces viewers enough to create a sense of unsettled curiosity. Through that process it unravels preconceptions and exposes new or different ideas, ones which break free from prescribed cultural meanings.”

The selected works in the exhibition not only demonstrate diversity within the UNSW Art Collection, but they are also diverse in expression and style. They reflect the rich heritage and ongoing impact of women in the visual arts.

The exhibition opened on 20 July and can be viewed on the UNSW Library website.

Feature image: Seven Sisters (2019), Sylvia Ken, synthetic polymer paint on linen, UNSW Art Collection. Purchased 2019. © Sylvia Ken/Copyright Agency, 2020