The 2004 judge, Peter Hill, Senior Art Critic for The Sydney Morning Herald, selected Sally Smart’s A.W. of K. (Beeology), 2004, as the winning painting. According to Peter Hill, “the winning painting by Melbourne artist Sally Smart combines both very strong figurative and abstract elements and the mix of the two makes for a very significant contribution to the Redlands Westpac Art Prize Collection.”
“The Collection is a vital teaching resource within Redlands and Smart’s use of collage, paint, and a variety of contemporary compositional devices will – I hope – be an important addition to students’ understanding of visual culture. In this work we see technique, concept, and visual art research join with a personal vision which this mid-career artist has pursued for a number of years.”
While there are many ways to interpret this work, some understanding of Sally Smart’s other works help clarify what at first seems to be a jumbled collage of parts. Dr Deborah Hart, Senior Curator of Australian Painting and Sculpture at the National Gallery of Australia suggests that “Smart has drawn inspiration from a wide range of sources including Surrealism and Dadaism’ and that “Smart’s fascination with domestic spaces (is) intertwined with the ways that women have been represented in history and literature.”
In this particular work A.W. of K. stands for ‘a week of kindness’, the image of a bee superimposed over the portrait of a woman. The view is simultaneously internal and external. Are we to compare the tireless effort of the worker bee to the never ending ‘weeks of kindness’ undertaken by women in the domestic environment? The unseen effort of the worker bee who serves the queen bee? Smart also revives, renews and re-contextualises many of the so-called ‘women’s arts’ of the past…needlework, embroidery, quilting, patchwork, sewing, while simultaneously allowing the unexpected, the random association and the sub-conscious to surface in what is contemporary art practice.
The final words must go to the artist who states that…
“The discourse begins with the body, a forensic activity, and an external and internal examination of the parts of the body’s environment: clothes, house, furniture and landscape. This becomes an anatomy of the world lesson; where dissected parts are examined and reconstructions are made for explanations. The conclusion is like a puzzle-picture: a maze of fugitive parts; landscape parts become human parts, and body parts become abstract parts. But whether the lines, shapes and colours appear abstract or representational, there is an overall assemblage of parts. However, the composition is unstable – a chimera – the picture is impaired.”
Sally Smart was born in Quorn, Flinders Ranges, South Australia (1960) and studied at the South Australian School of Art, Victorian College of the Arts and at Monash University. She has established a reputation as one of Australia\’s leading feminist artists with over twenty solo exhibitions to her credit, and has also featured in a number of significant international touring exhibitions. Her works are represented in numerous public collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, The National Gallery of Victoria, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Queensland Art Gallery, Geelong Art Gallery, Bendigo Art Gallery and the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery. She is currently based in Melbourne.