Fiona Hall's current exhibition at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery comprises the first showing in Sydney of two major recent works: Leaf Litter and Cell Culture. Leaf Litter, first exhibited in part in the National Gallery of Australia's Federation exhibition in 2001, is an ongoing series of two hundred gouache paintings of botanically-specific leaves on foreign paper currency. Hall has said of Leaf Litter: "Money doesn't grow on trees—or does it? Plants have played a crucial role in the history of colonisation and the development of world economies. Many species have been responsible for the rapid growth of European power and wealth over the past five hundred years. Plants, and along with them people, have been shifted across oceans, battles have been waged over them, forests razed. But everything comes at a price, and now we are paying heavily for over-taxing the environment and for cultivating an ever-widening gap between rich and poor nations. Many of the once most plant resource-rich countries are now amongst the poorest on earth. Leaf Litter aligns the distribution of plant species with the distribution of monetary wealth."
Cell Culture is a collection of animals and plants constructed out of clear glass beads and white Tupperware containers, all housed within a large museological display case. Again, here, Hall has conflated two different economies, two different systems of trade, socialisation and exchange by subjecting them to the neutralising force of science: collection of specimens, systematic classification, objective display. The wondrous complexity of biological diversity is frozen like a display of precious diamonds rendered curiously sterile in an institutional context.
Cell Culture was produced for the 2002 Adelaide Bienniale and has recently been purchased by the Art Gallery of South Australia. Leaf Litter was produced by Hall largely in Lunaganga, Sri Lanka where she stayed, with the aid of an Asialink residency, at the country home of architect Geoffrey Bawa. In 1997 Hall was the recipient of the inaugural Contempora 5 art award and in 1999, the Clemenger Art Award. Her work is held in every major public collection in Australia. She works across a broad range of media: painting, photography, sculpture, installation. A major retrospective of her work is currently being planned by the Queensland Art Gallery for early 2004. Leaf Litter & Cell Culture will be her 5th solo exhibition with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.