Art around Melbourne: Leading Ladies

Photo: Eva Rothschild’s “Kosmos” exhibition

There are two new exhibitions on in Melbourne that give centre stage to female artists: Polly Borland’s Polyverse at NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) and Eva Rothschild’s Kosmos at ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art).  Beautifully curated, with a breadth of work, both exhibitions emanate a feeling that there is more to come, a sense of “you ain’t seen nothing yet”.

Australian photographer, Polly Borland (she now lives in Los Angeles) has a well-established reputation for her surreal photo-portraiture.  Possibly the best known here is Nick Cave in a blue wig, blue girls’ dress, stockinged face with over-painted lips, in the NGV’s permanent collection.  While I was familiar with how she distorts or camouflages the face to create her portraiture, I hadn’t seen the extraordinary works, the Monster series, where the body is abstracted using constricting elasticised fabric to create something inhuman, extreme in shapes, while colourful and sculptural.

Photos: from the Monster series (inkjet print); Pip Wallis, Curator, Contemporary Art at NGV

Equally mesmerising is the Tapestries series, where Polly’s photographs were re-created in tapestries by prison inmates, with the aim of foster their well-being. The tapestries are displayed to show both front and back of the needlework, the front being an accurate depiction, with the back highlighting the physical act of creating the work, where thread crosses and inter-weaves.

Photos: from the Tapestry series

Polly Borland’s most recent works (2018) titled MORPH, further challenge  the concept of abstracting the human form. These photographic works are three – even four – dimensional.  On approach, the shapes are unidentifiable. As you move past, the experience is one of amorphous to realistic.  Descriptions of these works address psychoanalysis from the nebulous to images created in the mind.  All Polly Borland’s work has a visual language, engaging an intensity, curiosity. With MORPH, she takes it one step further and guides you through the process.  Fabulous!

Photos: MORPHing – as you move from one side to the other
(Inkjet print on rice paper on lenticular cardboard)


It’s special stepping into an exhibition where the sculptures say “my space”.  That’s how I felt walking into Eva Rothschild’s Kosmos exhibition at ACCA. Each room is a whole, but each work is distinctly different in structure and medium.  They’re linear, architectural, probing, urging you to firstly, take in the mass, then closely discover.

Photos: Eva Rothschild’s sculptures and installations.

Irish-born Eva Rothschild (she resides in London) explores numerous materials to create form, scale and textures. As a visualizer, possibilities seem endless to her.  Kosmos is such a welcoming experience, I didn’t want to leave.

Photos: Eva Rothschild’s sculptures and installations.

Polly Borland Polyverse exhibition – NGV, until 3 February 2019.

Eva Rothschild Kosmos exhibition – ACCA, until 25 November 2018.    

Photo: Polly Borland MORPH

© 2018 Text and photographs Pamela Reid/tPRo