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Pawn #1, from the series Pawn

printed 2022


Simryn Gill

Singapore, Malaysia, Australia

1959 –

No image
  • 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
    Gift of the artist 2022. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Simryn Gill
    Artist information
    Simryn Gill

    Works in the collection


  • About

    In 2019, the Art Gallery of New South Wales invited 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 tanks located nearby in The Domain. Built during the Second World War, the tanks were 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 tanks were de-commissioned and largely forgotten about until the opportunity arose to transform them into gallery space as a part of the AGNSW's Sydney Modern Project expansion in 2022.

    The tanks' remarkable history and presence made a significant impact on Gill and inspired her to create 'Pawn', a suite of seven photographs documenting its drained interior. Taken at ground level, these pictures survey the tanks' 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 impressively breached the tanks' concrete ceiling whilst searching for water and nutrients in the soil above. These were subsequently cut down and moved to Gill's studio where they were painted in ink and stamped onto long sheets of paper, leaving behind two haunting impressions of the roots' unruly filaments and debris.

    An admirer of nature and keen gardener, Gill employs plants, especially invasive species of plants, metaphorically in her works to consider the migration and displacement of people in our globalised and increasingly post-national world. She is also intrigued by decaying industrial architecture and the sense of inevitability and karmic reckoning that we feel when nature occasionally, usually fleetingly reclaims culture. By photographing this significant yet degraded military infrastructure from the last century Gill’s work also speaks broadly to 21st century matters such as waning Western hegemony and dominance, shifting geopolitics and changing and/or disputed national borders.

Other works by Simryn Gill

See all 26 works