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


Pawn #1, from the series Pawn

printed 2022


Simryn Gill

Singapore, Malaysia, Australia

1959 –

Artist profile

Alternate image of Pawn #1 by Simryn Gill
Alternate image of Pawn #1 by Simryn Gill
Alternate image of Pawn #1 by Simryn Gill
  • Details

    printed 2022
    Media category
    Materials used
    Type C print on Stock Kodak Matt Endura Premier paper
    unique state
    295.0 x 357.0 cm overall
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Simryn Gill 2022
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Simryn Gill

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    Artist information
    Simryn Gill

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    In 2019, the Art Gallery of New South Wales commissioned Simryn Gill to produce a body of work that responded to its unique history and location in Sydney, including its proximity to the underground fuel tank located nearby in The Domain. Built during the Second World War, the tank was engineered to store thousands of litres of oil for the Royal Navy whose main Pacific base was relocated to Sydney after The Fall of Singapore in 1942. Following the War, the tank was de-commissioned and largely forgotten about until the opportunity arose to transform it into gallery space as a part of the Art Gallery’s Sydney Modern Project expansion in 2022.

    The tank's remarkable history and presence inspired Gill to create 'Pawn', a suite of seven photographs recording its drained interior. Taken at ground level, these pictures survey the tank’s cathedral-like architecture, dank atmosphere and plant life that had grown and thrived inside its dark, humid confines. In the background of the large photograph one can see the suspended pair of tree roots that had breached the tank’s concrete ceiling and reached down for the water and nutrients below. The roots were subsequently removed and moved to Gill's studio where they were inked and printed by hand onto long sheets of paper, leaving behind two haunting impressions of the roots' unruly filaments and debris.

    Gill often works with invasive plants, alongside her ongoing investigations into decaying industrial architecture. Her works invite us into the place between manmade and natural worlds, stirring for this writer, a sense of karmic reckoning as nature overruns our cultivated, developed places. In photographing this significant yet degraded military infrastructure from the last century Gill’s work also speaks to 21st century matters such as waning Western dominance and shifting borders.

Other works by Simryn Gill

See all 114 works