Current Issue #488

Tarryn Gill honours the Dearly Beloved with hand-sewn sculptures

Tarryn Gill honours the Dearly Beloved with hand-sewn sculptures

The latest series of sculptures (Dearly Beloved) by Western Australian artist Tarryn Gill is a continuation of the Guardian series where Gill uses tomb art to explore her identity and family history.

“The works I have been making for the past five years are Guardians — talismans or seers which I originally began making as protectors for my own tomb,” Gill says.

A multi-disciplinary artist, Gill spent the first 10 years of her career working collaboratively in performance, photography and video work. She has also worked in theatre in choreography and set design.

More recently she has turned her focus to her solo practice creating soft sculptures out of foam and hand-sewn fabrics. Influenced by a background in dance, the works are very theatrical and experiential.

“I think it has definitely influenced the materiality, I use old dance costumes and sequins,” she says. “I also look at lighting and think about things spatially — in terms of choreographing and space.”


The material Gill uses, and the process of making the sculptures, informs the work. She hand-sews fabric around foam shapes, figuring them out as she goes.

“The foam shapes are fairly fixed but once I start sewing with the fabric you can change shapes with the stitches,” Gill says. “It’s my favourite part of the process because I can really see things coming to life. It’s the exciting bit.”

In Dearly Beloved, Gill is experimenting with suspending the works from the ceiling. The works, like those in the rest of the Guardian series, explore personal memories and family histories with characters drawn from mythology and funerary art.

“In this new series I have mostly created representations of humans. I started them as self portraits or portraits of my family,” she says.


These recent works introduce different elements, such as imagery that references the aesthetics of medieval astrology (also the illusionist films of Georges Méliès). “I have approached it like it’s a family tree but presented it like a constellation — still combining mythology with the personal,” she explains.

Through her sculptures Gill is not only satisfying a desire to play and explore ideas through material and a compulsion to collect materials but she is using it as a means to explore her own identity.

Gill examines life and death through representations of funerary art and rituals. In this latest series she uses her family as the basis to create these sculptures delving into her family history in order to resolve her own place in the world.

Tarryn Gill
Dearly Beloved
Hugo Michell Gallery
Until Wednesday, December 13

Get the latest from The Adelaide Review in your inbox

Get the latest from The Adelaide Review in your inbox