Fiona Hall Essay

FIONA HALL ESSAY Fiona Hall was born in 1953 in Sydney. She has created many artworks, many revolving around her interests of economy, trade, socialisation and exchange. She focuses on interesting parts of the human body seen in Paradisus Terrestris, and delicacy. Examples of this are seen in “Cell culture”, “ Understory” and “Tender”. All three of these artworks represent trade, socialisation, exchange and the economy. Fiona Hall has largely incorporated modernism into her artworks. Many of her artworks are presented in vitrines, adding to the delicacy. Cell Culture” was created in 2002. It is a collection of plants and animals made out of clear glass beads and regular Tupperware containers. Cell culture is an installation piece with a museology display cabinet housing all the plants and animals. Hall has carefully constructed each formation of the beads, and intended to create a realistic 3D object. This artwork is an example of Halls’ interest for the economy, socialisation and trade. The idea of using the Tupperware containers and beads as materials are two examples of symbolism to trade and socialisation.

Hall has chosen to use these materials to convey her ideas. During colonisation, beads were used as a main form of trade and held the economy as the form of currency and would be used to barter for land, food and clothing. The Tupperware containers are used to symbolise socialisation, as a Tupperware party is a social event. Both materials symbolise the economy, as both products are so cheap in today’s world. This artwork uses great juxtaposition e. g. Tupperware containers and beads. This artwork is also about the fine lines of today’s nature and society.

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The reason for the two opposing materials (glass beads and Tupperware) is to emphasise the point that is almost impossible to think about nature as being separate from human values. The artwork questions the role of natural science and the way societies have viewed the natural world. Hall has chosen to use incredible detail in this work. The fine detail in this work creates an image of one simple, realistic object. The title “Cell Culture” is conveying Hall’s ideas of captivity of the objects. Today’s world is what it is, and society is holding it captive with nowhere to go. “Understorey” was created in 2005.

Again, it is a collection of objects created from fine glass beads. The objects are elements of plant and human material including the contrast of flowers and bones. Again, the artwork is a form of installation, through a museology display cabinet and eccentric lighting positioned above the cabinet to create a shadowing of the objects on the floor. This artwork represents the interrelationship between life and death. The cabinet is organised with vibrant colours of extravagantly alive objects with beauty and fragility on top of the objects that are camouflage colours, which symbolise war and unrest.

The objects within the cabinet are similar and yet, contrast one another. This artwork shows the juxtaposition of nature and the threats that arose as conflict did. Hall has used great amounts of symbolism to create effect and evoke emotion. The purpose of the cabinet is to represent the morgue, a sense of captivity and helplessness. The cabinet holds many flowers, vibrant and beautiful, also holds a camouflage poppy flower. The poppy is a symbol of war. After a battle of WW1 red poppy’s sprouted in the battlefield. It is said they were red from the soldiers’ blood, representing death and remembrance.

This artwork refers to the use of the earth, the natural world and the world mankind has created. It is a very political artwork, with representations of civil unrest, and aftermath of colonisation. Hall has used glass beads, again to represent delicacy, of life and death and how our culture today continuously plays upon the fine line between the two. This is represented by installation; the two shelves are perpetrating the line between life and death. The title “Understorey” refers to the truth behind unrest. This is conveyed by the use of juxtaposition and contrast of the two shelves. Tender” was created in 2005. It is a series of birds nests created from American one-dollar bills. Each nest is a different size and shape. It is a work full of symbolism. Like many of Hall’s recent works, it is displayed in a vitrine. Each species’ nest labelled with its scientific name on the front of the case and the banknotes’ serial numbers listed on the back, bearing the official declaration “This note is Legal to tender”. The use of banknotes also presents again, her interest in the economy. As the American dollar is the most desired form of currency in any third world ountry, the nests hold symbolism in a way that states that people need money to be housed. Those desperate for money, will scavenge for a home, money, employment, the same way birds will for their nests. Again, this artwork is one of political opinion and economics. It also relates to the natural environment. ‘Tender’ tells a story of the effects of modernisation on the habitat of many species; the advance of capitalism, and the spread of deforestation is the result of much deprivation to animals of the land, sky and mankind.

Hall has carefully weaved the shredded dollar bills into the formation of the particular birds nest. The way the birds nests may represent different cultures and people’s way of making money and caring for themselves, everyone is different. The significance of the title “Tender” is ironic. The nests themselves are literally a home, to one form of species or another, therefore the saying “tender loving care” applies to this aspect of the title. The other aspect is the tendering of money; currency, economics and trade.

Fiona Hall demonstrates her opinions of politics, economics, socialisation and trade through all three of the artworks “Cell Culture”, “Understorey” and “Tender”. Hall has demonstrated many techniques in these three artworks, such as weaving, and beading. She chooses her materials carefully and deliberately and uses installation to convey a message of captivity and opinions of unrest. All three of these works are of 3D objects making the object more realistic and believeable. Michaela Jones.


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