Symrin Gill - Portrait, photo via dasplatformscom

Simryn Gill

Singapore 1959

Photography, Collage, Drawing

Simryn Gill
Simryn Gill
October 7, 2016

Creating works of art as syntheses of ephemera she collects, multi-cultural contemporary artist Simryn Gill produces sculptures, photographs, drawings and writing. Since her birth in 1959 in Singapore, Gill has frequently changed her place of residence, having lived in Malaysia, India, the United Kingdom, and Australia. This mix of cultures has invariably influenced her work, in spite of her objections to being regarded through the prism of nationality or race.[1] Like herself, Gill’s art defies classification, its meaning often elusive and found somewhere in between the lines, posing more questions than giving answers. One of the recurring topics in her art is indigenous culture in comparison to western civilization, as can be seen in her pieces combining chili peppers (which she grows herself), representing native South American peoples, together with fine cutlery, that stands for the aristocratic way of life.

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Symrin Gill – Forking Tongues, cutlery, dried chillies, image via

Finding Place and Making Sense of the World

Always resourceful, Gill proves the old maxim “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure”. Any castaway belongings, wrappers, papers, plastic bits, etc. can find their place in one of her works of art. An avid collector of trinkets and fleeting objects she finds on the streets, Gill produces artwork that evoke feelings of a moment just about to be over, a sense of uncertainty and not fitting in. Simryn herself is quite familiar with this emotion, having spent most of her life in different locations, always facing a never settling question of identity in a modern, post-colonial Pacific Asia. Photographs from her collection entitled A Small Town at the Turn of the Century (2000) can be seen displaying tropical fruits in the place of people’s heads, commenting on the fact that identities are imposed upon people through setting and visual appearance. By equating Malaysian people with tropical fruit Gill’s photographs suggest that – even at the turn of the millennium – stereotypical associations with “the tropics” and Asia are still at play.[2]

Simryn uses images of fruitheads to challenge stereotypes

New privacy rules. Privacy and private information subject to copyright, 2012, Sydney
Symrin Gill – A Small Town at the Turn of the Century, exhibition documentation, 2001. Courtesy the artist and ACCA Archive

Representing Australia at the Venice Biennale 2013

Australia’s pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale hosted Simryn Gill’s exhibition titled Here Art Grows on Trees. Having been critical of her adopted country’s political standpoints on the question of refugees, this Singapore-born artist of Punjabi ancestry appreciated the irony of her representing Australia. Her exhibition featured four works: Let go, Lets go, a series of collages of text she recovered from found books; Eyes and Storms, birds-eye-view photographs of mines across Australia; Half Moon Shine, a large bowl; and Naught, a collection of found objects in the shape of zeros, hung from nails and strings on the wall. Not disclosing the entire depth of connections that could be made between these elements, Gill hinted at the recurrence of a circular “O” shape in all four: “O” shaped items, the bowl forming an “O” and the great holes in the earth she photographed from the air.[3]

Simryn’s work has been on display in many a museum and gallery, always varying in message and medium, her images provoking a plentitude of emotions. For example, her 2012 exhibition Full Moon is a disassembly and re-sequencing of books from her grandfather’s collection, the pages of which have been inscribed with circular designs in ink, gouache, grass pigment, laundry detergent, and correction fluid, whereas her new exhibition Sweet Chariot (2016) is a series of large black and white photographs portraying the Strait of Malacca, taken from a fishing boat.

Simryn Gill lives and works in Sydney, Australia and Port Dickson, Malaysia


  1. and 3. Kitty Hauser (2013), Artists Simryn Gill becomes Australia’s accidental ambassador at Venice Biennale, The Australian [May 25, 2013]
  2. Tate Modern: Display (2016), Simryn Gill, Tate

Symrin Gill – Portrait, photo via

YearExhibition titleGallery/MuseumGroup/Solo
2015Simryn Gill: Stormy Days Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai solo
2015Hugging the ShoreNTU Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore solo
2015Storylines: Contemporary Art at the GuggenheimSolomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New Yorkgroup
2015Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to NowHammer Museum, Los Angeles group
2014Alluvial ConstructsOctavia Art Gallery, New Orleans group
2014Sites of Reason: A Selection of Recent AcquisitionsMuseum of Modern Art, New York group
2013Here art grows on treesAustralian Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale solo
2013Lasting ImagesSolomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York group
20135th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art Moscow group
2013Considering CollageJhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai group
2011Untitled12th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul, Turkey group
2010AnimismKunsthalle Bern, Bern, Switzerland group
2010Provisions for the FutureSharjah Biennial, UAE group
2010Transmission InterruptedModern Art Oxford, Oxford, UKgroup
2009Simryn Gill: InlandCentre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne solo
2008Simryn Gill: GatheringMuseum of Contemporary Art, Sydney solo
2008Revolutions – Forms That TurnBiennale of Sydneygroup
2007News From IslandsCampbelltown Arts Centre, Campbelltown group
2007documenta 12Kassel, Germany group
2007Living in the Material WorldNational Arts Centre, Tokyo, Japan group