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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Salt lick




Australia, Germany

1959 -


There is an element of anxiety mixed with sensuality in Simone Mangos’ work. Possibly because she came to sculpture from performance and sound art, time becomes a crucial element both poetically and formally, determining the way the works are made and experienced.

In her early works Mangos often used salt but she also used other natural and organic materials such as honey, pine needles and even charred trees. Salt is a necessary component of our own metabolism: we sweat it, weep it and desire its sensation in our mouths. It is essential in the diets of all mammals and in nature there are places where animals gather to lick the mineral salt from rock. Licking is itself an intimate activity that exposes the inside of the mouth, particularly that erogenous organ the tongue. There are no prescriptive narratives in Mangos’ works but they often entail powerful sensory experiences for the viewer, including aroma and touch that are highly suggestive (this sensual quality has something in common with the erotic mechanisms of Rebecca Horn).

In 1985 (and again in 1987) Mangos was invited to exhibit in Australian Perspecta. Her work, a column of salt with a crumbling top, like any vertical column, was easily anthropomorphised and in this case it was not a great leap of the imagination to associate it with the biblical figure of Lot’s wife. Her transformation into a column of salt constituted a temporal trap as she was frozen forever in the backward-looking pose of regret, her fatal last glance at the sensual world they were leaving behind.

‘Salt lick’ was one of a number of related works produced about the same time. Mangos is keen to avoid literal narratives but there is already something suggestive of a gender confrontation in the form of these salt works. The virginal white block has connotations of femininity although this is somewhat ambiguous: some visitors think of it as a wedding cake. The block has been pierced by vertical iron railway spikes. This penetration is inevitably experienced as a violent and painful action but the action is again frozen in time.

Now it is possible to discern different rhythms at work in the piece; the infinite suspension of motion endured by Lot’s wife, the sudden impalement of the block by the iron spikes and a slow but inexorable corrosion of the spikes by the salt. The white is stained by the rust suggesting blood but it is also the sign of the revenge of the penetrated over the penetrating. The sculpture embodies pleasure and pain and hints at the absorption of these temporary feelings into longer geological rhythms of being.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection Handbook, 2006




Media category


Materials used

salt, nails


30.0 x 34.0 x 34.0 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased 1987


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information


Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 8 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Dead Sun, Sydney, 1997.

Michael Bogle, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'The art of the 80s: should it be allowed to self-destruct?', Sydney, 18 Jul 1987, (illus.). Arts page

Anthony Bond, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Contemporary', pg. 94-108, Sydney, 1988, 108 (illus.).

Anthony Bond, Contemporary: Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection, 'Objects and associations', pg.332-381, Sydney, 2006, 354, 355 (colour illus.).

Anthony Bond and Victoria Lynn, The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, 'Contemporary Practice - Here, There, Everywhere ...', pg. 229-285, Sydney, 1994, 245 (colour illus.).

Deborah Edwards, Daphne Wallace, Margo Neale, Victoria Lynn and Sandra Byron, Review: works by women from the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, "Women Artists in the Contemporary Collection", Victoria Lynn, p13-15, Sydney, 1995, 15, 22.

Donna Hinton, Look, ‘To restore or leave alone? Changing views and requirements in art museum conservation’, pg. 14-16, Sydney, Apr 2012, 15, 16 (colour illus.). reproduction is a detail

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 176 (colour illus.).