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Contemporary art

Western art

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The trainer



Svetlana Kopystiansky

Russia, United States of America

11 Nov 1950 -


The installation ‘The trainer’ 1992 was made for the 9th Biennale of Sydney, ‘The boundary rider’, which dealt with themes of the outsider, borders and exile.

‘The trainer’ consists of 37 wooden bookshelves, each filled with books that are turned leaf outwards; three boxing bags suspended between the shelves at equal intervals; and two standing balls. Spanning 3.5 by 10 metres, the large scale of this work lends it a formal association with totalitarian architecture, yet the found elements that it consists of remain immediately recognizable. Coupling gymnastic equipment with books, ‘The trainer’ takes up the tradition of the readymade. Two kinds of objects with disparate functions are combined to form an abstract entity that is not related to either reading or sport. This work has an abstract quality which makes subtle use of colour, tone and texture. ‘The trainer’ has an aesthetic precision that accords with post-minimalist art, and in the artist’s opinion, is “…part of a post-minimalist/post-modern strategy.”




Media category


Materials used

wood, books, sport equipment


350.0 x 1000.0 x 100.0 cm installed :

a-kk - 37 wooden bookcases, 84 x 114.5 x 16 cm, each, 8 bookcases 4 rows x 4 rows

a-kk - 37 wooden bookcases, 84 x 86 x 16 cm, each, 8 bookcases 4 rows x 3 rows

a-kk - 37 wooden bookcases, 63 x 57 x 25 cm, each, 3 bookcases 3 rows x 2 rows

a-kk - 37 wooden bookcases, 112 x 39 x 25 cm, each, 18 bookcases 4 rows x 1 row

ll-nn - 3 hanging bags, 92 x 35 cm, each, height x diam.

oo-pp - 2 standing bags, 172 x 53 cm, each, height x base diam.

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Mervyn Horton Bequest Fund 1993


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Svetlana Kopystiansky

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 5 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Great gifts, great patrons: an exhibition celebrating private patronage of the Gallery, Sydney, 1994. no catalogue numbers

Anthony Bond, Contemporary: Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection, 'Objects and associations', pg.332-381, Sydney, 2006, 348 (colour illus.).

Anthony Bond and Victoria Lynn, AGNSW Collections, 'Contemporary Practice - Here, There, Everywhere ...', pg. 229-285, Sydney, 1994, 240 (colour illus.).

Anthony Bond OAM and Yvonne Kennedy, The boundary rider: 9th Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, 1992, 138.

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, 15 (illus.).