Creative Paddington: Fiona Hall

By Lola Pinder


Beginning her career in photography, Fiona Hall is now one of Australia’s leading contemporary practitioners. Hall will represent Australia this year at the 56th Venice Biennale. She is the first artist to exhibit in the Denton Corker Marshall - designed pavilion in the Venice Giardini.

Fiona Hall’s four-decade career has seen great shifts in her practice, covering a variety of mediums, from photography, painting, sculpture and installation. The photographic medium allowed Hall to investigate expressions of the human condition and pictorial narrative with ease.

In 1975 Hall showed in Six Australian Women Photographers at the Australian Centre for Photography. Just out of art school at this time, Hall was predominantly shooting black and white, square format photographs. She went on to exhibit frequently through the 1980s in solo and group exhibitions at the ACP. In 1980 Hall showed with David Blount and Brian Thompson. In this group show Hall began to experiment with panoramic images as a means of capturing continuity in a scene and show greater detail. Another memorable exhibition at the ACP was her solo-show Recent Works, in 1983, which showed her black and white documentary photographs of the everyday in Australia.

Towards the end of the decade Hall began to formalise her distinctive practice. This was shown in her 1989 series The Divine Comedy exhibited at the ACP, and then again in 1990 her series Words, also shown at the gallery. These works were large format Polaroid prints of crafted scenes in which Hall constructed details tin, plastic and paint. In these two series Hall interrogated the photographic form as more than mere documentation or representations of ‘truth’- these scenes blurred the bounds of photography, painting and sculpture. Hall’s constructed photographic environments, the layering of textures and tone and detail, and gave way to her later sculptural and installation practice. Arguably, the most famous example of this is her sardine tin works Paradisus Terrestris, that splice human body parts with sprouting details of plant-life.

Hall’s early exhibitions at the ACP celebrate the history of photography, innovation, humanity and nature. Her last works to be show at the ACP were in 1999 from her Polaroid series The Price is Right. Hall photographed handcrafted items, a pair of underpants crafted out of tin or a Buddha cut from a Coke can, in considering contemporary living and consumer culture.

It will be exciting to see the culmination of themes Hall has spent her career investigating at the 2015 Venice biennale. Her installation Wrong Way Time is purportedly an expression of her concerns for the future of the environment, the economy and human nature. 

This post is part of the Art Month Event Creative Paddington taking place on March 7th in conjunction with Metro Screen and UNSW Art & Design.



Image 1: Installation documentation of Recent Works courtesy and © Australian Centre for Photography Archive

Image 2: Exhibition poster courtesy and © Australian Centre for Photography Archive

Image 3: Exhibition invite courtesy and © Australian Centre for Photography Archive