Vernon Ah Kee, Kaurna Language Ephemeral Public Art Project, 2018

Location: Fenn Place, UniSA City West campus

Vernon Ah Kee’s Kaurna Language EphemeralPublic Art Project asserts the significance of Indigenous languages in defining culture and identity of place.

The project embeds bold Kaurna words across the Fenn Place thoroughfare within the City West campus of University of South Australia. Addressing the ever-growing ‘concrete jungle’ encroachment onto Aboriginal country, the project highlights the enduring presence of Kaurna culture and connection to country.

Vernon Ah Kee of the Kuku Yalandji, Waanji, Yidindji, Gugu Yimithirr and Koko Berrin peoples, is a Brisbane-based artist, activist and social critic known for text-based works that address the gap between the arts and the body politic.

An intensive consultation workshop with Kaurna Elder Dr. Lewis O’Brien and Kaurna Warra Karrpanthi language group members identified a series of words that reflect the cultural relevance of the project site:

Tapa / Pathway
Muiyu / Seat of emotions
Marni / Good
Marnininthi / becoming better, improving
Located southern end of Fenn Place, adjacent to Hindley Street

Located northern end of Fenn Place, adjacent to North Terrace

Samstag and Vernon Ah Kee gratefully acknowledge the support of Professor Irene Watson, Pro Vice Chancellor Aboriginal Leadership and Strategy, UniSA.


APY Collective, Seven Sisters, 2018

Location: Bradley Forum entrance, Level 5, Hawke Building, UniSA, City West Campus.

Seven Sisters depicts a part of country where the Seven Sisters Tjukurpa and the Pitardi Tjukurpa meet, west of Amata Community. The creation of the work was led by senior artists Wawiriya Burton, Mona Mitakiki, Sylvia Ken, and Tjungkara Ken and emerging artist Sharon Adamson, joined by Sandra Ken, Nyurpaya Kaika Burton, Wanatura Lewis, Sally Scales, Tjimpayie Prestley, Kathy Maringka, Gladys Roberts, Rita Rolley, Celine Tunkin, Madeline Curley (Kaltjiti Arts), Emily Paddy, Nyanyu Watson, Jennifer Mungee, Joyleen Roberts (Ninuku Arts).


Fiona Hall, Different Forms of Intelligence, 2007

Location: Hawke Building entrance, UniSA, 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, UniSA, 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, UniSA, 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. 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, UniSA, 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.


Sydney Ball, Chromix Lumina #10, Infinex series, 2015

Location: Pridham Hall, UniSA, City West Campus.

Sydney Ball is widely regarded as one of Australia’s leading abstract colour painters. His artistic practice forms a critical link between Australian painting and American abstraction, one of the great art movements of the twentieth century.

 As a young man in the 1960s, Ball studied in New York at the Art Students League under Theodoros Stamos and alongside artists Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell. After returning to Australia in 1965, Ball produced his Modular series, abandoning conventional painting formats to create works comprising geometric forms articulated in fields of contrasting colour. Chromix Lumina #10 returns to this style of painting and forms part of Ball’s Infinex series that he began in 2010 and continued until his death at age 83.

Throughout his long career, Ball continued to push the limits of his practice to greater heights and maintained significant relevance as a contemporary Australian artist. His oeuvre is expansive and diverse, with each series marked by a monumental and dynamic change, yet all continuing his investigation into the possibilities of colour and form.


Jeffrey Smart, Near Knossos, 1973 

Location: Jeffrey Smart Building foyer, UniSA, 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.


Yvonne Koolmatrie, Eel traps, 2009

Location: Jeffrey Smart Building entrance foyer, UniSA, 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, UniSA, Mawson Lakes Campus.

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.  

READ: The Sydney Ball Gift