As I was compiling this list, I was depressed to find that my initial list had three male artists, and not yet a single female artist. This ratio is reflected in the data. Of the 147 artists who were exhibited in historical exhibitions at the Gallery in 2014, only 17 were women. While I had not envisaged reinforcing such ratios in my own selection, I had done just that. Of course, many galleries, including the Art Gallery of NSW, are always attempting to remedy these inherited gross imbalances, but when I reproduce them in my attempt to navigate the collection, I realise how embodied such biases are, and how the knowledge through both the education we receive and archives we inherit is always subjective.
As an exercise, I began to search the Gallery’s online collection with ‘women’ as the only search term. It was only because of this exercise that I discovered this incredible work, recently acquired, by Margaret Worth. I hadn’t come across her work before, but what struck me was its vitality and radiance, and its uncanny similarity to the late Syd Ball’s work – another of my favourite Australian painters. It wasn’t until I mentioned Worth to artist Ruark Lewis that he gave me some context and background, describing her as relatively under-acknowledged until a recent exhibition at Charles Nodrum Gallery, and also the first wife of Ball. Finding these hidden undercurrents and eddies reminds me that my knowledge is never exhaustive and art history is never exhausted.