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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Self-nature is subtle and mysterious - Tree Woman / Woman Tree

2023
Nell, Warwick Edgington (studio assistant), Annette Blair and Belinda Toll, Canberra Glassworks (glass), Crawfords Casting (bronze) and Eveleigh Works (steel)

bronze, patinas, stainless steel, hand blown glass (overall (irregular): 81.0 cm x 324.0 cm)

At once grounded and transcendent, this bronze figure in a seated meditation position is a self portrait of acclaimed Sydney-based artist Nell. Fusing mythological and personal symbolism, the work explores the complexities of personal growth, transformation and femininity. This is more than a literal likeness. The artist explains: 'The spirituality within the work is about being human: walking is spiritual, sitting is spiritual, eating is spiritual. Tree worship is universal, as is our symbiotic relation with trees. It's in our language; mother nature, family tree, the tree of life … Here I'm asking, "Am I the same as the tree?" and answering, "I am the tree".'

Philosophical concepts, binary opposites and pop culture have been recurring themes throughout Nell’s 25-year multidisciplinary practice. Motifs such as the ghost face figure, which in this self portrait float amid Nell's fantastical tree limbs, appear and reappear in different creative projects. While it conveys ephemerality, this work relied on the labour-intensive processes of bronze forging and glassblowing, playing with the tension between permanence and transience.

Purchased with the assistance of funds provided by the Portrait Dinner Series 2023
© Nell courtesy of STATION

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.
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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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