On Display

Fiona Hall, Different Forms of Intelligence, 2007

Location: Hawke Building entrance, University of South Australia, City West Campus. 

Encouraging reflection on thought and creativity, Different Forms of Intelligence by Fiona Hall performs a powerful symbolic welcome to the landmark educational Hawke Building and the Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art. 

One of Australia’s leading contemporary artists, Hall was commissioned to create the work for the building, which opened in 2007. She responded by creating a group of six sculptural forms that combine the organ of thought with the origins of Western thinking. A tetrahedron, octahedron, cube, icosahedron and a dodecahedron—the five shapes identified by the philosophy, geometry and mathematics of antiquity as the platonic solids—have been cast in bronze or carved from wood or marble with the distinctive coil-and-rivulet structure of a brain. Hovering delicately nearby is the sixth sculpture, a human brain, cast in glass in the butterflied format of a teaching model. For Hall, ‘the fostering of multifarious ways of thinking and tackling problems and theories is of the utmost importance in our schools and universities.’ 

Fiona Hall lectured at the South Australian School of Art (now part of the University of South Australia’s School of Art, Architecture and Design) for many years, and continues to live and work in South Australia.


Timothy Horn, Discomedusae, 2004

Location: Hawke Building foyer, University of South Australia, City West Campus.  

Monstrous and beautiful, a vast translucent orange jellyfish gently floats above visitors to the Hawke Building foyer. This is Timothy Horn’s Discomedusae, 2004, which has been described as a ‘masterpiece of baroque and animist wonder … a leviathan, alien creature from the dark, silent space of an ocean never previously explored, its brethren strange, primeval things’, by Ross Wolfe, the former director of the Samstag Program. Inspired by German biologist Ernst Haeckel’s renowned engravings of jellyfish, Horn has skilfully merged the natural and constructed worlds through an investigation of the physical and metaphorical qualities of his materials.

Born in Melbourne, Timothy Horn was awarded a Samstag Scholarship in 2002. He is currently based in Burlington, Vermont, USA. 


Nike Savvas, 2016, 2016

Location: Hawke Building front window, University of South Australia, City West Campus. 

Nike Savvas is an artist whose work sits as comfortably in a gallery space as it does in the public domain. Her meticulous and mesmerising installations and discrete objects, held in collections such institutions as the Victoria & Albert Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, and commissioned for by the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Southbank Centre, London, flash with references to high and pop culture. Minimalism, op art, Vegas and disco; her works are kaleidoscopes of light and colour that manage to pinpoint the quiet painterly moment to be found amongst their shimmering glamour.

2016 continues Savvas’ experiments with reflective materials, which she first began to explore in during her year of research at Goldsmith’s College, University of London, in 1996. Fragments of moments are captured and reflected by each of the thousands of perspex mirrors, strung to create a tremendous tinsel curtain that sparkles as a result of light and location. It is a seductive experience, the gently twisting strands calling back to the kinetic art movement of the 1960s and 70s, their languorous spins belying their labour intensive construction. This is the largest iteration of the work so far - each time it is presented, the title changes, reflecting the time and context of its installation, acknowledging the changing conditions this work performs in.

2016 was first shown in the exhibition Quicksilver, celebrating 26 years of Samstag Scholarshops. Savvas became a Samstag Scholar in 1996. She lives and works in Sydney, New South Wales.


Aleks Danko, Songs of Australia Volume 3, At Home, 1999 

Location: Adjacent to the Yungondi Building, University of South Australia, City West Campus, in the Lion Arts Centre courtyard. 

A red brick house surrounded by larger institutional buildings, Songs of Australia Volume 3, At Home, 1999, was conceived by Aleks Danko specifically for the city entrance to the University of South Australia. For the artist, ‘This image of the house/home transplanted from its State of Suburbia acts as a conduit between two sites of learning—the private and public experiences of our development as individuals within society.’ At times the subject of controversy, Songs of Australia Volume 3, At Home is an early and pivotal part of the artist’s important ongoing ‘Songs of Australia’ series that both references earlier volumes and has had its red brick facade featured in subsequent work. 

Aleks Danko was born in Adelaide and attended the South Australian School of Art (now part of the University of South Australia’s School of Art, Architecture and Design), and currently lives and works in Daylesford, Victoria. 


Jeffrey Smart, Near Knossos, 1973 

Location: Jeffrey Smart Building foyer, University of South Australia, City West Campus. 

Near Knossos is a superb example of Jeffrey Smart’s contribution to Australian painting. In this distilled urban composition, an isolated figure looks out from within an imposing architectural structure set against a brooding sky, to survey the hustle below. As is typical of Smart’s work, there is a sense of beauty despite the unprepossessing subject matter. The artist once said, ‘Anything, I can find anything beautiful. But always it’s the light I think. I don’t think it’s the object itself. 

Jeffrey Smart (1921–2013) graduated from the South Australian School of Art (now part of the University of South Australia’s School of Art, Architecture and Design) and as an esteemed alumnus has been honoured by the Jeffrey Smart Building, which opened in 2013.

Simon Terrill, Crowd Theory Adelaide: Victoria Square/Tarntanyangga, 2013 and Swarm, 2005

Location: Jeffrey Smart Building foyer, University of South Australia, City West Campus. 

These photographic works—one a large-scale dramatic tableaux of a local landmark and the other a bird’s eye view of an anonymous public space—show the range of Simon Terrill’s ongoing investigation of ideas of community and the nature of crowds. 

The filmic triptych Crowd Theory Adelaide: Victoria Square/Tarntanyangga is a night-time portrait of Adelaide’s Victoria Square and its community, commissioned by the Samstag Museum of Art in 2013 to coincide with the Adelaide City Council’s redevelopment of the site. Despite the breadth of the scene, particular people and their actions are distinctly recorded in a deliberate echo of the grand master Breughal’s paintings of everyday life. By comparison, the figures in Swarm, 2005, appear tiny and insignificant. In this work, Terrill has used an elevated position and a long exposure to capture and contrast patterns of movement and stillness amongst festival-goers at Sydney’s ‘Big Day Out’. 

Terrill recently described his work as being ‘centred upon an idea of a contrasting and oscillating space between the personal and the public, the individual and the collective and the impact of these fluid definitions on architecture, portraiture and the photograph’. 

Melbourne-born, Terrill was awarded a Samstag Scholarship in 2008, enabling him to undertake graduate study at Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London. Now London-based, Terrill  exhibits extensively nationally and internationally.


Yvonne Koolmatrie, Eel traps, 2009

Location: Jeffrey Smart Building entrance foyer, University of South Australia, City West Campus. 

These woven-sedge eel traps—narrow at one end, curving and broadening to an inviting opening at the other––are typical of the work that has brought Yvonne Koolmatrie national and international recognition.  Yvonne Koolmatrie is of the Ngarrindjeri people of the Coorong and River Murray region of South Australia and has worked to revive and maintain her people’s fibre-weaving traditions. She creates fine sculptural works that range from traditional forms, such as traps and baskets, to the far from traditional, including a hot-air balloon and a biplane. Koolmatrie says, ‘When I am weaving I feel no pain. For me the weaving is meditation.’

In 1997, Koolmatrie became one of the select few artists to have represented Australia at the Venice Biennale, the world’s most prestigious international art event, in an exhibition showcasing her work alongside that of Emily Kame Kngwarreye and Judy Watson. 


The Sydney Ball Gift

Location: Sir Eric Neal Library, University of South Australia, Mawson Lakes Campus.

The University of South Australia is honoured to be the beneficiary of a most generous gift by the distinguished artist, Sydney Ball, who has donated a large body of his key works of art. The works are widely representative of the artist's illustrious career. Sydney Ball, an alumnus of the University, is renowned for his significant contribution to Australian art. 

Max Hart Collection of Aboriginal bark paintings

The University has a rich resource in the collection of 1970s bark paintings gifted by former lecturer Max Hart. 

Australian university art museums (UAMs) contribute significantly to the cultural and intellectual life of the community. As university-based museums, they offer distinctive experiences to visitors by actively engaging in research and teaching and advancing community engagement. Their programs showcase world-class exhibitions and encourage critical discourse and debate.

UAMs develop and maintain significant art collections that contribute to the national distributed collection held in museums Australia wide. These art collections play a vital role in enriching the cultural milieu of universities and the nation.


Anne and Gordon Samstag

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Samstag Scholarships, the exhibition Meet the Samstags: Artists and Benefactors showcased the artistic talents of Anne and Gordon Samstag with many treasures from the Samstag Legacy Research Archive.

The American artist Gordon Samstag famously made one of the great cultural bequests benefitting the arts in this country, enabling large numbers of Australian visual artists to develop their skills and abilities internationally. But who were the Samstags? Anne and Gordon Samstag both enjoyed early artistic success in America; Gordon as a successful painter of the American Scene and ‘New Deal’muralist, and Anne as an accomplished textile artist. Married in Manhattan in 1933, they came to Australia in 1961 and stayed for 16 years. Gordon taught from 1961 to 1970 at the South Australian School of Art; after living in Cairns, Queensland, for a time, the Samstags retired to America. The Samstag Bequest was their generous gift back to Australia.


Selected works from the University of South Australia Collection 

An exhibition presented by the Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art in the Kerry Packer Civic Gallery, University of South Australia 24 February – 04 March 2010. Exhibition Catalogue.

The University of South Australia's Samstag Collection consists of works by Samstag Scholars, recipients of the prestigious Anne & Gordon International Visual Arts Scholarships. Since first established in 1992, over one hundred artists have been awarded scholarships.

This exhibition and accompanying catalogue presents a small selection from the growing number of works held by the University in its Samstag Collection. It reveals the University as a confident and innovative supporter of the contemporary visual arts, and illustrates the diversity and imaginative strengths that characterise emerging Australian art practice and the Samstag alumni. Drawing richly from an expanded view of the world, the Samstag artists challenge and engage us with explorations of the unknown, or portrayals of everyday realities, intertwined with ambiguities.