Mythical Creature, 2022
57 x 55 x 23 cm

For close to a decade, Renee So focused her artwork on representations of power, in particular male authority, through images of bearded men, big bellies and military style boots. After the birth of her son Gene, So turned her attention to representations of women, taking inspiration from some of the oldest forms of pottery and, in particular, ‘Venus’ statuettes from the Valdivian culture of Ecuador (4000–1500 BCE). These clay figures are characterised by their standing poses and distinctive hairstyles, as are So’s own women.

So became fascinated with the five-thousand-year old bird-faced Venus in the Brooklyn Museum with its similarity to the more recent imaging of a clitoris based on research undertaken by Melbourne urologist Helen O’Connell in 1998. As So notes, ‘they look so similar, yet they are millenia apart. I cannot make any connection between them beyond their shape . . . The bird-faced Venus appears to be a celebration of femininity and the ancient Egyptians had gods and goddesses to celebrate love, sex, fertility and pleasure’. A related bird-like shape appears in many of So’s artworks including Mythical Creature (2022).