We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Patiwangi (The death of fragrance)



Leyla Stevens


1982 –

No image
  • Details

    Media category
    Time-based art
    Materials used
    two channel HD video, colour, stereo sound
    Signature & date

    Signed Certificate of authenticity c.l., black ink "Leyla Stevens". Dated l.l., printed back ink "30 JUNE 2021".

    Gift of the artist 2021
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Leyla Stevens
    Artist information
    Leyla Stevens

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Leyla Stevens is an Australian–Balinese artist who works with photography and moving image in a research-based practice responding to histories of place. In her works, Stevens uncovers alternative histories, principally in connection to Bali’s colonial and diasporic past. Inspired by material and visual cultures, and with particular attentiveness to the affective forces of gesture and ritual, she reanimates past events to tell stories that have often been forgotten or deliberately repressed.

    In this two-channel video work, two seemingly disparate scenes are counterpointed. In one, the camera pans over a museum collection store and then passively looks on while artworks and artefacts are carefully unwrapped. In the other, Javanese-Australian dancers Ade Suharto and Melanie Lane perform. In the tension between these two images we find a careful meditation on the relationship between stillness and action, object and subject. Both sequences focus on the representation of women, whether through the cultural objects or the performative presence of the dancers. As we watch, we track between the transcription of movement as it appears in paintings and sculptures and the way it manifests within the body itself. One folds into the other yet as become witnesses to the past as it exists in the present. Yet there are also manifest complications and nuances to this narrative.
    And although we think we might have found a connection between person and place – between the dancers and a landscape – the context has been collapsed into a mid-century industrial site that camouflages any clues to specificity. As the two dancers shadow and mimic each other, oscillating between teacher and student, their movements ghost the histories of Balinese female muses that have been a leitmotif of modernist art in Indonesia. In revealing the slippage between art and life, and the politics of representation, Stevens opens a space for woman artists to write new histories.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

Other works by Leyla Stevens