Woman IX, 2021
54 x 28 x 31 cm

Renee So’s practice is distinguished by its embrace of craft methods and cross-cultural thinking, an underlying sense of the comedic, and a persistent feminist worldview. While So’s early work used motifs of bearded men, full bellies and boots to explore popular archetypes and representations of (mostly) masculine authority, she has increasingly turned to representations of women’s bodies, drawing on artistic precedents from prehistoric to modern times, as well as her personal experience as a mother.

In stark contrast to the bad behaviour that So uses to parody and mock masculine figures, she emphasises agency when working with the female form. In works like Woman IX, So combines a visual language developed from figurative representations from the past with new visualisations of female anatomy drawn from Australian urologist Helen O’Connell’s work mapping the hidden shape of the clitoris using MRI technology. So links this knowledge of the clitoris with ancient statuettes of ‘Venus’ from the Valdivian culture of Ecuador (4000–1500 BCE), often equated with fertility.

While similar in bulk and form to her masculine objects, her female archetypes have greater agency. In Woman IX, So draws on the similarity between the tip of this pleasure centre and an ancient Egyptian “bird-faced figurine” dated 3500 to 3400 BCE. In a belated act of defiance, So empowers her bird-headed figure with the solidity of three legs and an ancient legacy, bestowing the figure with strength and gravitas.