Works in he exhibition  RUTH WALLER| ALL THAT IS SOLID including currently available works 

(for details of the works, please click on work and hold cursor over the image)


views of the exhibition

About the artist.

Ruth Waller was born in Sydney in 1955. She has taught Painting at ANU since 1990 and is currently Head of Painting. Waller has exhibited her work in Australia for over thirty years, in solo and group shows, and is represented in national, state and regional collections.

Her early work demonstrated a strong interest in the natural world, in eco-systems in danger, in undervalued, invisible and unseen life forms. In the 1990s her focus shifted towards exploring the act of seeing in painting, and the changing approaches to representation over painting’s history. Early Italian and Northern Renaissance art provided rich source material for several series of layered and reflective paintings, which addressed contemporary and personal subjects.

In 2000 her Masters thesis, Miraculous scenes from the altarpieces of Siena and Florence of the 14th and 15th centuries, reflected a long-term interest in the pre-Renaissance approach to pictorial space and composition. Since then, her painting practice has continued to explore ways of drawing on the early history of Western painting in developing works which reflect on contemporary experience and questions of perception, optics and the relations between mind and body in the creative process. In considering painting as a form of speculative research she is concerned to highlight the material and perceptual specificity of the conditions of painting, both for the maker and the viewer.

Most recently Waller has returned to exploring the natural world through painting, specifically the botany and geology of her own garden and of the local bushland. She speaks of finding new pleasures and possibilities in considering paint as a kind of mineral matter: of colour as a gritty and particular substance, enjoying the way rocks form and cleave with planar geometry and yet erode and crumble in ways more organic, each being irregular and unique and shaped by a specific series of events in the world.

“While I am working from nature, I’m interested in the ways the intensity of colours, patterns and forms of the natural world can take on a fantastic quality.” says the artist. “These paintings are in a sense abstracted from nature but they have something of the physicality and complexity of incident you find in historical narrative or landscape painting, where there is a lot going on. The fact is, when you look at the complexity and variety of things around us, there is a lot going on.”

Academic awards

2013    International Women’s Day Certificate of Recognition (PARSA award)

2009    ANU Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Supervision

2008    ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences Award for Supervision

Art Awards

Canberra Critics Circle “Visual Artist of the Year Award 2010

Solo Exhibitions

2014    Mineral, Watters Gallery, Sydney

2012    Paintings 2011-12, Watters Gallery, Sydney

2010    Twenty-ten, Watters Gallery, Sydney

2010    Ruth Waller, a thirty-year survey, Maitland Regional Gallery

2010    Ruth Waller, a thirty-year survey, Canberra Museum and Gallery

2009    (painting), Helen Maxwell Gallery, Canberra

2008    The new paintings, Watters Gallery, Sydney

2007    Slime moulds/hotel suite: some paintings from the 90s, Watters Gallery

2006    Garbage Suite, Helen Maxwell Gallery, Canberra

2005    Paintings after lamentations from the low countries, Watters Gallery

2003    Recent work Watters Gallery, Sydney

2001    Sackbutts and crumhorns, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane

2000    Painting Watters Gallery, Sydney

1998     Adventures in misadventure, Tin Sheds Gallery, Sydney University

1996-7  Paintings, Watters Gallery Sydney and at AGOG Gallery, Canberra

1996    Another room, another bed, Watters Gallery Sydney

1995    Another room, another bed, Canberra Contemporary Art Space

1994    E 11 North - The Hospital Paintings, Watters Gallery, Sydney
           Deep Time In A Brand New Kitchen, 24 Hour Art, Darwin. N.T. and at Savode Gallery, Brisbane

1993    Deep Time in a Brand New Kitchen - Works on paper, Artspace, Adelaide Festival Centre

1992    Slime Moulds and Other Lives, AGOG, Canberra

1991     UnNatural History Paintings, Watters Gallery, Sydney

1989    Landscapes of Loss, Tin Sheds Gallery, Sydney

1988    Colony, Watters Gallery, Sydney

1985-6 House About Wollongong, Wollongong City Gallery, toured to Photo-Access Gallery, Canberra, Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide
            Hibakusha/Disappeared, Watters Gallery,Sydney

1982-3 Remote Control, toured to Adelaide CAS ; Trades Hall Gallery Melbourne; Artspace Sydney

1982    Drawing & Posters, Watters Gallery, Sydney

1981     Remote Control, montage and posters, Watters Gallery, Sydney

Curated and Group Exhibitions

2014    Monuments to the Frontier Wars, Damien Minton Gallery, Sydney

2014    Insight Radical, RiAus FutureSpace Gallery, The Science Exchange, Adelaide

2013    Insight Radical, Mclemoi Gallery, Sydney

2013    Insight Radical, Griffin Gallery, London, UK;

2013    Intensity of purpose, Canberra Museum & Gallery

2012    Theatre of the World, Museum of Old & New Art, Hobart, Tas, curated by Jen-Hubert Martin

2012    Word of Mouth: encounters with abstract art, Canberra Museum & Gallery, curated by Mark Bayly

2011     A Gleam of Light, M16 Gallery, ACT curated by Helen Maxwell

2011     2x4 @ M16, M16 Gallery, Canberra

2011     Imitation of life, Canberra Museum & Gallery

2010    Kedumba Drawing Award exhibition, Wentworth Falls NSW

2009    Making it new, Focus on Australian contemporary art, MCA, Sydney, curated by Glenn Barkly

2008    A Country Show, ANU School of Art Foyer

2008    Melbourne Art Fair- Watters Gallery exhibit

2007    Artists as Social Commentators, Manly Art Gallery & Museum curated by Therese Kenyon

2007    Myself by myself, Helen Maxwell Gallery

2007    In the Fold, ANCA Gallery ACT

2007    Recent acquisitions, Canberra Museum & Gallery

2006    Someone shows something to someone Canberra Contemporary Artspace

2005    The Body National Gallery of Australia

2004    Point to Line and Plane Tin Sheds Gallery, Sydney University

2003    Big Art, small viewer University of Queensland Art Gallery

2003    Collaborations Canberra School of Art Gallery

2001    Canberra Art Prize exhibition, Canberra
            Coincidence, Spiral Arm Gallery, Canberra

1999    Natural Disasters, Monash University Gallery, Melbourne
           The Redlands Westpac Art Prize Exhibition, Sydney

1998    The Kedumba Drawing Award Exhibition, Leura, NSW
           Stone Fruits, AGOG, Canberra

1997    The McCaughey Prize Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria

1996    Winter Light, AGOG, Canberra

1995    Recent Acquisitions, Queensland Art Gallery
           Women in the collection, National Gallery of Australia

1993-4 Identities- Art from Australia, Taipei  Fine Arts Museum

1992    Medium Density- recent acquisitions,  National Gallery of Australia

1990    Adelaide Biennale of Australian Art, Art  Gallery of South Australia


1989    Faber-Castell Drawing Prize                 

1989    Lake Macquarie Drawing Prize

1990    Maitland Art Award                             

1990    Gold Coast Art Award

External Grants

2000  Australia Council Visual Arts Board residency- Barcelona studio
           Arts ACT Fellowship to develop a series of paintings
           FRGS Small Grant for travel to Europe to study late Flemish altarpieces

1998    PEP grant to research teaching of painting in tertiary art schools in Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide

1998    Australian Research Council  FRGS Small Grant  for field trip to Italy

1989    Australia Council Visual Arts Board Studio Residency- Verdaccio studio

1988    Australia Council Visual Arts Board project grant

1985    Australia Council Visual Arts Board project grant

Australian National University Internal Grants

2014    RSHA External Visitors Grant: Art & Music festival visitors: Ross Manning, David Thomas, Nell, Geoff Newton to deliver artist talks, master classes and exhibit work in conjunction with The Drill Hall Gallery’s Colour Music exhibition.

2014    RSHA External Visitors Grant: Chinese lantern makers Cao Zhenrong & Cao Hong to conduct traditional lantern-making workshops

2013    RSHA Visitors Grant: Ecuadorean Environmental artist, Pablo Cardoso to run specialist workshops and seminars (due to unforeseen circumstances Cardos has cancelled)

2012    RSHA Visitors Grant: Pakistani artist, Nida Bangash to run specialist miniature painting workshops and produce an artist’s book

2011    CASS Conference Grant toward Painting Symposium: Painting now: what happens when figurations and abstraction collide? ($5,000)

2010    Visual Arts Foundation Funding for Anthea Callen to run Masterclasses and contribute to Symposium focused on the Musee D’Orsay exhibition at the National Gallery.

2010    RSHA Visitors Grant: to bring interstate scholar/curators/artists and  to present at the This way Up Abstraction Symposium

2010    RSHA Visitor’s Grant to bring UK Neuroscientist Dr Iain McGilchrist and Sydney University’s Prof Ross Gibson to ANU for the ACUADS conference

Lectures, articles, conference papers

2014   Miraculous scenes from the altarpieces of Siena and Florence of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (extract, Ruth Waller: Masters of Arts (Visual) ANU School of Art 1999, in Artists with PhDs: On the new doctoral degree in studio art, (Second edition) ed. Elkins, James,

2013    Panel member Judgement Calls forum Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

2012    To paraphrase Richard Hamilton, Just what is it that makes today’s abstract painting so different, so appealing? Conference paper delivered at the AAANZ conference, Sydney University

2012    Abstraction Now: on-the-artist-formally-known-as-abstract, (catalogue essay) Volume One, Towards a new MCA, MCA Collection catalogue, p. 67

2011    Creativity: mind, brain & body: introductory address for panel discussion of keynote speakers Iain McGilchrist and Ross Gibson at the ACUADS conference, ANU School of Art

2010    This Way Up: catalogue essay for This Way Up: an exhibition series of recent abstract painting, ANU School of Art ISBN 978-0-7315-3069-4

2009   Miraculous scenes from the altarpieces of Siena and Florence of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (extract), Ruth Waller: Masters of Arts (Visual) ANU School of Art 1999, in Artists with PhDs: On the new doctoral degree in studio art, pp.211-225, ed. Elkins,James, Washington, 2009

2007    On practice-led research (and the banana problem): paper presented at Can bad art be good research? seminar, RSH, ANU
            Creative research- arguing for abstract painting: paper at ANU School of Art/UCAN joint symposium on creative research

2005    Gone tomorrow, catalogue essay for exhibition by Peter Maloney, Canberra Museum and Gallery

2004    Dulle Griet and global glut, conference paper for ANU School of Humanities conference, Art & Excess

2002    Catalogue essay: Snap! Painting showcase exhibition, ANU NITA, School of Art publication

2002    Lecture: Dying for it: painting and martyrdom at National Gallery of Australia, in conjunction with Three Centuries of Italian Art

2001    Conference paper: From Van Eyck to virtual, presented at Seeing Art and the Art of Seeing Conference Centre for Visual Science, ANU

2001    Lecture: Lessons from art history in the development of my studio practice to the NSW Southern region Art Teachers Conference

Recent articles, catalogue entries, reproductions and reviews in journals and online including:

Powerhouse Museum D*Hub, (Orsini, Rita)

Raven: a platform for contemporary art and events

Sydney University Faculty of Science, Inspiring Australia, Randles, Jackie,

University of Melbourne, Faculty of Science, Dr Renee Beale

Artist Profile, Craven, Owen, Insight Radical: where science meets art, Issue 23, 2013

Artist Profile, (Craven, Owen, Profile: Ruth Waller) Issue 14, 2011 pp.70-5

Making it New, Focus on Contemporary Australian Art, MCA Sydney catalogue, (Isabel Hesketh: Ruth Waller) pp.146-155

Art Monthly Australia, (David Broker, Power of two: Ruth Waller & Jude Rae) Issue 231, July 2010

Artlink (Jenny McFarlane, Ruth Waller A 30 year survey) vol 30 no.2, 2010

Art Monthly Australia, (Adam Geczy, Making it new) pp.13-15 Issue 227, March 2010

Canberra Times, (Sasha Grishin, Play of light and shadow, p.9, Dec 8 2009

Artlink  (Joanna Mendelsohn, review of Recent Work, 2003)

Sydney  Morning Herald (Bruce James, review of Recent Work, April 23, 2003)

Canberra Times (Sonia Barron, review of Coincidence, June 2001)

Sydney Morning Herald (Bruce James, Sights, City File March 25, 2000)

Sydney Morning Herald (Courtney Kidd, Another time and space, March 21, 2000)

Art link (Image Bank p.50, Vol 17/2, 1997))

The Canberra Times (Sasha Grishin, Delicate magic of pawscapes, 19 October, 1996)

The Australian (Joanna Mendelssohn, Sydney Art, 16 February 1995)

The Age (Bruce James, Low Rent Elegance, 21 February 1995)

Art Monthly (Deborah Clark, Blue Angels,  Number 73, September 1994)

Artfan (Ewington, Ferran, Skuse, McCaughan, Ell North, The Hospital Paintings, Spring 1994)

Work cited in publications including:

Australian Contemporary Drawing - Arthur MacIntyre;

1990 Adelaide Biennale of Australian Art catalogue - Mary Eagle

Sightlines - Sandy Kirby

Seeing Australia - Graeme Sullivan

Identities - Art from Australia catalogue - Deborah Hart

Art Now - Contemporary Art post 1970 - Williams and Simpson

Works held in Public Collections

Major National & State Collections: National Gallery of Australia; National Gallery of Victoria ; Art Gallery of NSW; Art Gallery of Queensland; Artbank,

Regional Gallery Collections: Wollongong City Gallery; New England Regional Art Museum; Ballarat City Gallery; Warnambool Gallery; Manly Art Gallery & Museum; Maitland Regional Gallery; Lake Macquarie Regional Gallery; Gold Coast Regional Art Gallery; Canberra Museum & Gallery;

University Collections: University Art Museum, University of Queensland; Sydney Uni Student Union Collection; ANU School of Art Collection; Monash University Collection; University of Canberra Art Collection; ANU Art Collection; Griffith University Gallery

Extracts of  Reviews and Writings.

Waller’s intellectual and aesthetic reach in drawing on the subjects and visual organisation of Renaissance painting extends to the incorporation of contemporary themes in her work. Environmental issues, chaos and civilisation, permanence and transience, conflict and harmony are all invoked by her intriguing paintings. And in their references to the history of painting and the act of seeing, the artist confirms the centrality of the practice of painting as a carrier of multiple – including contemporary – meanings.

ACT Museum and Gallery


Ruth Waller's studio (11 Mar 2013)

One woman makes a din, two women a lot of trouble, three an annual market, four a quarrel, five an army, and against six the Devil himself has no weapon.” Book of Proverbs, Antwerp, 1568.

I was fascinated as she provided insight into what had inspired the pieces she is working on for the Insight Radical project. I have come to learn that Ruth is particularly skilled in giving words to essentially mental processes that many of us would find very difficult to explain.

She began by warning me that it all might sound rather strange and crazy, and that I might wonder what it all had to do with these molecules we call free radicals. She confided that she would never be able to completely understand the science behind free radicals but that she could contribute to how we might think about them by adding another dimension to the dialogue.

During the residency Ruth was interested in the patterns and chain reactions relating to free radicals but wasn’t sure how she would tackle the subject in real terms.

As we stood in her studio she explained how she had returned to a figure she had explored in some of her previous work, Dulle Griet (Dull Gret), and drew parallels between her research on Dulle Griet and what she learnt about free radicals whilst on residency.

The subject of a 1562 painting by Flemish renaissance artist Pieter Brugel the Elder, Dulle Griet also known as Mad Meg, is a figure in Flemish folklore. The painting depicts a peasant woman who leads an army of women to pillage Hell despite already being burdened with many possessions. Hence the following Flemish proverb “She could plunder in front of hell and return unscathed.”

Owen Craven


Ruth Waller.

It seems almost contrarian, at a time when fashionable taste looks towards the postcolonial and eschews the western tradition, for an artist in Australia to explore the depths and the implications of the northern Renaissance. But in recent years Ruth Waller has done just that.

Of course being Waller, the painter of past pawscapes, her art is far removed from the pretty geometry of Jeffrey Smart or Justin O'Brien. These explorations have an edge, a sense of a world not quite comfortable with itself and its history. Her 'texts', if that is the right word, are Breughel's painting, Dulle Griet (Mad Meg) and Dieric Bouts' The Martyrdom of St Erasmus. There are lyrically beautiful abstract forms making patterns of rhythms - a series appropriately named Sackbutts and Crumhorns. These are more than simple visualisations of medieval popular music. They also celebrate form and line in harmony, visual counterpoint creating music for a time long past, that is also like the present age in its confusion, disruption and intolerance. 

The strongest sense of this world of confusion comes from her Dull Griet series, based on Breughel's painting of a mad woman in the face of war. Although this painting has been celebrated as a 'modern' depiction of lunacy, it is clear that Breughel saw her as a creature from 'the Gates of Hell' through which she passes in urgency and lunacy. Waller then is going to the heart of the western tradition that has women carry the burden of madness caused by war. Her Mad Meg is made of the rubbish she carries, a bleak creature of destruction, almost robot-like as she progresses without feeling in a mechanistic world. She is a woman-machine, out of control avenging as well as despairing, the ultimate being of our modern age who also belongs visually and intellectually to the angst of the past. Then there are the skips - elegant shapes in which rubbish may be placed. Waller first saw these skips when she was living in Barcelona on an Australia Council residency and was impressed by their beauty, and the way in which they become the holding place for fragments of people's lives.

The key to this series is one of the smallest works in the exhibition, Deposition. Waller has always been intrigued by the women tenderly taking the dead Christ from the Cross, where emotion and grieving is shown by the fold of the cloth, the angle of the corpse, the bowed heads of the mourners. This Deposition is however different. It is a collection of rubbish in a skip, so arranged that at first the images appear to be valuable relics of the western tradition, but in a skip everything is reduced to rubbish. Other paintings expand the theme - arches and crosses, odd shapes that have double meanings - the structure of western culture, turned into trash. The skip paintings also link to small sculptures on the same subject matter, where the artist plays with the geometry of apparent rubbish. These may have been developed as tools to help her work through her ideas for the two dimensional works, but they stand as small intriguing sculptures in their own right. Waller has made other sculptures. Waller's Dulle Greit first saw light of day as two sculptures, and it was these metre high rough unfinished works that later had their portraits panted to make the series.

Breughel's Dulle Griet has been described as his greatest work, his personal critique on the folly and barbarism of the Spanish Inquisition, but Waller's other visual 'text' is perhaps less famous. This is Dieric Bouts, The Martyrdom of St Erasmus. For those of us with a secular base, Erasmus is the great Dutch Renaissance philosopher, but the saint, his namesake had a bloodier context. He is usually painted being disembowelled (he is the patron saint of women in labour), and was popular in both the northern and the Italianate tradition. Waller admires most the Flemish tradition, the way the artists invite the viewer to join them in the picture plane.

Bouts' St Erasmus lies there as his intestines are wound up on a winch while the saint, and his torturers, look on in relative tranquillity. In St Erasmsus and the Painting Machine Waller uses the structure of Bouts' painting and the winch to show the miracle of the pictorial space and an investigation of pictorial structure. It is all there on a frame (which looks remarkably like a loom), a construction beautifully painted and gradually dissolving into geometry. It is such a pleasure to see paintings well made and thoughtful, where theoretical considerations harmonise with visual concerns instead of illustrating them.

Ruth Waller interviewed by Joanna Mendelssohn  Artlink, Vol.23, No.2, 2003.