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Renee So, Unknown Woman, 2019

Renee So: Provenance

27 April – 8 July 2023

Guest Curator:
Charlotte Day

UNSW Galleries, Sydney
18 August – ​19 November 2023

Renee So’s practice is distinguished by its embrace of traditional crafts, cross-cultural thinking, underlying sense of the comedic and persistent feminist worldview. Her idiosyncratic ceramic and textile works are inspired by art history, museum collections and popular forms of gendered symbolism. While So’s early work used motifs of bearded men, full bellies and boots to explore popular archetypes and representations of (mostly) male authority, she has increasingly looked to representations of feminine forms, drawing on artistic precedents from prehistoric to modern times.

The history, materiality and bearded faces of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century German Bellarmine jugs that So encountered in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum have been a dominant reference point for much of her ‘knitted paintings’ and ceramic objects over the intervening years, exemplifying her approach to museum objects as sources of inspiration. Other references have included classical sculpture, the Assyrian collections of the British Museum, objects looted by the French and British from the Qing Dynasty’s Old Summer Palace in 1860 during the Opium Wars, the glazed brick bas-relief of the Babylonian Ishtar Gate, c.575 BCE, and ‘venus figurines’—small statuettes dating from between about 40,000 BCE and 10,000 BCE.

Guest curated by Charlotte Day, Renee So: Provenance is the first major exhibition of the London-based artist’s work in Australia, where she grew up after migrating with her family from Hong Kong at a young age. The exhibition brings together more than a decade of art-making alongside new work, surfacing narratives within her evolving practice. It will be accompanied by a new publication designed by A Practice for Everyday Life and published by MUMA with Monash University Publishing. Featuring new writing by Chus Martínez, Hélène Maloigne, and So in conversation with Charlotte Day, it reflects on gender, histories of art-making, archaeology and imperialism—key notions that underpin both So’s work, and how the material practices of global cultures are received by distanced audiences.

Access: This exhibition in MUMA's ground floor gallery spaces includes ceramic sculptures, hanging textile works and stained glass works. There are no audio components or moving images. The spaces are lit well and on a level surface. Download a PDF room sheet before your visit to learn more about the artworks (see link below under 'Resources'). Get in touch to request a visually described tour (for blind or low vision visitors) or to make an appointment to visit outside of regular gallery hours (for people with autism or sensory sensitivity).

Image: Unknown Woman, 2019, courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry, London.

Related Programs
Closing event for Renee So: Provenance

Saturday 8 July 2023, 3–5pm



Renee So: Provenance is co-presented by Monash University Museum of Art | MUMA, Melbourne and UNSW Galleries, Sydney and supported by the Henry Moore Foundation.

The exhibition will be presented at UNSW Galleries, Sydney from 18 August – 19 November 2023.

MUMA acknowledges the support of the MUMA Contemporaries towards the realisation of new works for this exhibition, Kate MacGarry, London for its investment in and support of this project, and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney for its support of the publication.

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