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Renee So: Provenance

18 August – 19 November 2023
10.00am – 5.00pm AEST
UNSW Galleries
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Renee So’s idiosyncratic practice in ceramics and textiles is inspired by art history, museum collections and popular forms of gendered symbolism. It is distinguished by its embrace of traditional crafts, cross-cultural thinking, and underlying sense of the comedic and 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) male authority, she has increasingly looked to representations of feminine forms, drawing on artistic precedents from prehistoric to modern times. Drawn to the history, materiality and the bearded faces of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century German Bellarmine jugs, their features have been a dominant reference point for much of So’s ‘knitted paintings’ and ceramic objects, exemplifying her approach to museum objects as sources of inspiration. 

Other references include classical sculpture, the Assyrian collections of the British Museum, objects looted by the French and British from the Qing Dynasty’s Old Summer Palace in 1860 during the Opium Wars, tiled murals in London’s Underground train stations, the glazed brick bas-relief of the Babylonian Ishtar Gate, c.575 BCE, and ‘Venus figurines’—small statuettes dating from between about 40,000 BCE and 10,000 BCE.

‘Provenance’ is Renee So’s first major exhibition in Australia and continues a commitment to survey exhibitions that present the practices of Australia’s most exciting and innovative mid-career artists. This exhibition presents over a decade of Renee So’s artmaking and features a series of newly commissioned works. Brought together for the first time in Australia, where she grew up after migrating with her family from Hong Kong at a young age, the exhibition constructs one narrative among many through So’s evolving practice.

Curator: Charlotte Day

'Renee So: Provenance' is co-presented by UNSW Galleries, Sydney and Monash University Museum of Art | MUMA, Melbourne and supported by the Henry Moore Foundation.

This event will take place at UNSW Galleries Cnr of Oxford St and Greens Rd, Paddington NSW 2021.

Image: Renee So 'Venus of Valdivia' 2019, glazed ceramic. Private collection. Image courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry, London

Portrait of Renee So

Renee So


Renee So is a London based artist, born in Hong Kong and raised in Australia. Her practice weaves together a pattern of cross-cultural references from prehistoric Europe to ancient China and Egypt in caricatural figures and playful observations. So’s work encompasses ceramic, print and textile, drawing from an array of art history and anthropomorphic ceramicware.