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Sally Rees

Black and white image of a woman on textured paper with water colour mark


What are these,
So withered and so wild in their attire,
That look not like th’inhabitants o’th’ earth …


As you enter Sally Rees’ new exhibition at Mona, you will find yourself in the midst of a flock of ‘birds’—animated portraits that call to one another in the dark, their breath and sound given shape by puffs and clouds of hand-drawn colour. These ‘birds’ are also, in Rees’ vision, crones: portraits of ageing women from her life that she aspires to emulate.

With CRONE, Rees embraces the folklore character of the crone as an ideal incarnation of the older woman: unruly, wise, fearsome. She’s reversing the forced retreat into invisibility and diminished social capital as women get older; by saying ‘I am a crone’, Rees flips a derogatory term—a fairy tale caricature of hook-nosed terror and cantankerous truth-telling—into a different kind of statement altogether.

The exhibition is part of Rees’ own preparation for becoming a crone, and a continuation of her long-standing themes: ritual and repetition in secular society, magick and meditation, and harnessing the intangible as material for making art. It’s a rite of passage, marking her fiftieth birthday last August. But it’s also the start of a different story about (via Helen Garner) the ‘lengthening past and shortening future’ of our shared condition—a tale more wild and unruly than we’ve allowed ourselves to imagine.

Curated by Nicole Durling

CRONE was commissioned by the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), as part of Suspended Moment: The Katthy Cavaliere Fellowship, made possible with funds from the Estate of Katthy Cavaliere in partnership with Carriageworks and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)

Image: Flock (Monica) (video still), 2020, Sally Rees

  • When:

    18 June–1 November 2021