Woman XIII, 2022
49 x 40 x 19 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.

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.

She finds inspiration for her work from a wide range of historical and contemporary sources while maintaining an overarching interest in representations of gender and power. The title of Woman Sans Culottes XV, 2022, references women being banned from wearing trousers in Paris as well as the protest culture of the French Revolution. Dissenters called ‘sans-culottes’ wore striped work trousers (similar to today’s jeans), which women were stopped from wearing to prevent their participation in protests and from finding employment in Paris. This law, put in place in 1799, was only formally lifted in 2013.