“The most common form of despair is not being who you are.” —Kierkegaard

Is art instinctual, or is it the desire to announce and find ourselves, and art a catalyst for this drive? Certainly the need to question seems instinctive to most artists, and the links between Drew Pettifer, Owen Leong, Matt Huppatz and Juz Kitson are obvious; each of them uses the human body to explore and question aspects of sensuality, intimacy and identity; they all turn the perceived body into apperception, they use the human body as the necessary object-bridge to see themselves from outside, perhaps not for an absolute truth but for further views and perspectives, all of which are truthful and offer probity of intent.

It is intriguing that while the human body is mostly water and some smaller percentage of solid matter, on it’s own it is a harmless organism apart from the part inside the skull –the cerebral cortex, which plays a key role in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, wherein consciousness kicks in, giving rise to complex, perplexing and even problematic relations between individuals and groups, no more so than when it comes to sexuality. Scores of texts delve into arguments about nature versus nurture: intimacy, sensuality, identity and desire from social, cultural, religious and political perspectives.

“The flesh is sad, alas, and I have read all the books.” Stéphane Mallarmé

What our genetic coding may offer in term of our capacity to develop our actions falls short of the decomposition of this information into the realm of the symbolic, Zizek states that in order to cope with the trauma of living, we symbolise, this is not “in our genes.” Is then the instinctual ultimately a necessary construct of identity as a way of reacting to this trauma? This recognition and empowering of the ‘self-owned’ against the ‘self-belonging-to-the-collective’, is perhaps a form of sublimating the id to the world of consciousness. The personal narrative derived from this drive of awareness is a formula of identification in the Lacanian sense – the desire to recognise or be recognised, to market our differences, to amplify the presupposed individual freedom to the extent of the individual perceived limitations, and to do so before our time expires. Maybe this is the impetus that empowers these four artists.

Kant made explicit the role of the mind in the structuring of experience, no longer were humans seen as slaves of Nature's Laws, for the human mind was capable of creating and moulding the individual's experiences. This assumption didn’t just offer free will, but also burdened us with the realisation of our possible superiority to nature itself, giving way to the eternal Hegelian master-slave problem - who we are and what we want to be is now in the realm of our own propaganda against our own fears of consumption. Much of Kierkegaard’s philosophical work deals with the issues of how one lives as a “single individual”, giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking, and highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment.
Wilhelm Wundt first used the term “instinct” in psychology in the 1870s. By the close of the 19th century, most repeated behaviour was considered instinctual. Instinct as a concept fell out of favor in the 1920s with the rise in the study of ‘behaviourism’, but this also proved to be too simplistic to account for the complex emotional and social behaviour of human beings.

Sigmund Freud used the term instinct to refer to human drives such as sex and aggression, sometimes represented as Eros-life instinct and Thanatos-death instinct. Freud suggested the id is the unorganised part of the personality structure that contains a human’s basic, instinctual drives. The id contains the libido, which acts according to the ‘pleasure principle’, while seeking to avoid pain or displeasure aroused by increases in instinctual tension. Jacques Lacan, declared that courtly love “is an altogether refined way of making up for the absence of sexual relationship by pretending that it is we who put up an obstacle to it… It’s impossible to find love through sexuality. It’s impossible to use your body to hide your emotional pain.”

Recently scientists working on the Human Genome Project have identified 90% of specific chromosomes in our DNA, genes that identify criminality, alcoholism, the ‘gay gene’ and countless others. Does this help us understand the fact that biology interacts with both the cultural context and the personal choices that people make about how they want to live their lives and does it put to rest the ‘nature versus nurture’ debate concerning the relative importance of an individual’s innate qualities in determining or causing individual differences in physical and behavioral traits?

What was invented with civilization was the ability of some to deny sensuality to others.”
Richard Manning, Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization



1973Born Adelaide 
2008Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours) South Australian School of Art, UniSA
CurrentCandidate, PhD (Major Project), School of Art, Architecture and Design, UniSA


2012Instinct, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide, Australia
Good Mourning, FELTspace, Adelaide
Supermarket Art Fair, Stockholm
Pass it on, FELTspace, Adelaide
2011Dark Light, Inflight, Hobart
Vague Possibilities, SASA Gallery, UniSA
2010SOFT CORN, FELTspace, Adelaide
SALA Moving Image Project, Queen's Theatre, Adelaide
Heartlines, University of South Australia, City West Campus
2009Shed Light Works, Project Space, Contemporary Art Centre of SA (solo)
Exercises in Mapping the Self-1, FELTspace
Felt Up, Seventh Gallery, Melbourne
Hatched09 National Graduate Show, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts
2008Freefall, Visual Arts Graduate and Honours Exhibition, South Australian School of Art
Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition, Drill Hall, Adelaide



MF and MH Joyner Scholarship in Fine Arts, University of South Australia


Chancellor's Letter of Commendation, University of South Australia


 Owen Leong CV 


1979Born Sydney 
2002Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours), College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney
2005Master of Fine Arts, College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney
CurrentLives and works in Sydney


2012Tidal Skin, La Trobe University Visual Arts Centre, Bendigo
Infiltrator, Dianne Tanzer Gallery + Projects, Melbourne
Tidal Skin, Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne
2011Infiltrator, GrantPirrie Window, Sydney
2010Birthmark, Anna Pappas Gallery, Melbourne
2007Owen Leong, Ryan Renshaw, Brisbane
Owen Leong, Mori Gallery, Sydney
2006Ghost Heart, Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester
Owen Leong, The Prism, Westpac Corporate Art Collection, Sydney
2005Autofiction, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney


2012Made In China, Australia (curated by Greg Leong). Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart
John Fries Memorial Prize. Gaffa Gallery, Sydney
Chinese Australia (curated by Venita Poblocki). Australia China Art Foundation, Melbourne
2011Magic Spaces (curated by Binghui Huangfu), Today Art Museum, Beijing
The Rest is Silence. Death Be Kind, Melbourne
Night Vision. 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art at Grasshopper Bar, Sydney
2010Melbourne Art Fair (with Anna Pappas Gallery), Melbourne
Group Show, Anna Pappas Gallery at The Depot Gallery, Sydney
2009William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize. Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne
NEXT Art Fair (with Über Gallery), Chicago
Surveying the Field. Counihan Gallery, Melbourne
2008Bridge Art Fair (with City Art Rooms), Berlin
Reflecting Skin. City Art Rooms, Auckland
Leading Lights. Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney
2007Soft Power. Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai
Asian Attitude: Transit Forces. National Museum of Poznan, Poland
I’ll Be Your Mirror. Gallery Primo Alonso, London
Synthetic / Aesthetic. Asia-Australia Arts Centre, Sydney
Entanglement (with Shoufay Derz). Westspace, Melbourne
Funeral Songs (curated by Daniel Mudie Cunningham). MOP Projects, Sydney
Churchie National Emerging Art Exhibition, Anglican Church Grammar School, Brisbane
Blake Prize. National Art School Gallery, Sydney
2006I’ll Be Your Mirror. Liverpool Biennial Independents, Liverpool
Video Easy. The Hart Center For Arts, Beijing
...becoming as a hundred thousand. George Paton Gallery, Melbourne
Liquid Aesthetics. 2006 Midsumma Festival. BlackBox Arts Centre, Melbourne
Helen Lemprière Traveling Art Scholarship Exhibition. Artspace, Sydney
2005Asian Traffic. Esplanade Jendela Visual Art Space, Singapore; Today Art Museum, Beijing; Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai; OCTA Museum of Contemporary Art, Shenzhen; Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong
Contemporary Collection Benefactors Art Auction. Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Text Me: an exploration of body language. Sherman Galleries, Sydney
Room 35 turns 8, Gitte Weise Gallery, Sydney
Prospectus: projections in new media. Blankspace, Sydney
Helen Lemprière Traveling Art Scholarship Award Exhibition. Artspace, Sydney
2004Asian Traffic (curated by Binghui Huangfu). Asia-Australia Arts Centre, Sydney (Official Parallel Event of the Biennale of Sydney)
Res Artis (with Song Dong and Shen Shaomin). Artspace, Sydney
CCAS Contemporary Art Award, Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Canberra
Nightvision video projects. Asia-Australia Arts Centre, Sydney
New Q Cubed. 2004 Midsumma Festival. Counihan Gallery, Melbourne
Helen Lemprière Traveling Art Scholarship Award Exhibition. Artspace, Sydney


2009La Trobe University Visual Arts Centre Facade Project
Asialink Visual Arts Residency
Art & Australia Contemporary Art Award (Highly Commended)
William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize (People's Choice Award)
Tokyo Wonder Site, Tokyo(Residency)
2008Australia Council New Work Grant Art Gallery of NSW Moya Dyring Studio
Ian Potter Cultural Trust Grant 2007 Art Australia Contemporary Art Award (Highly Commended)
Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris (residency)
2006Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester (residency)
Artspace Visual Arts Centre, Sydney (residency)
2005Australia Council New Work Grant
2003Australian Postgraduate Award 1998 College of Fine Arts Undergraduate Scholarship


Stephen Grant and Bridget Pirrie, Sydney
Private collections in Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom ·

Drew Pettifer CV


1980Born Shepparton, Victoria 
2005Bachelor of Laws, University of Melbourne
2006Bachelor of Arts (Honours), Cultural Studies, University of Melbourne
2009Master of Arts (Arts Management), RMIT
Graduate Certificate in Visual Arts, VCA
CurrentPostgraduate candidate in Fine Art (Photomedia), Monash University
Lecturer Art History and Theory, RMIT University


2012Transmission, Craft Victoria, Melbourne
2011Hand in Glove, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Hold on to your Friends, Metro Arts and Brisbane Festival, Brisbane
Hold on to your Friends, Firstdraft, Sydney
The gift and the curse, RMIT School of Art Gallery, Melbourne
2010Hold on to your friends, No No Gallery, Melbourne
2009Hold on to your Friends, No No Gallery, Melbourne
You are the light, Counihan Gallery in Brunswick, Melbourne
The Decisive Moment, Kings ARI, Melbourne
2008Cake boys: photographs, in two series, Blindside, Melbourne
2005Autofiction, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney


2012Instinct, Greenaway Art Gallery
new artefacts, Sa Sa Bassac, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Westspace 2012, Westspace, Melbourne
SafARI 2012, various locations, Sydney
Fourtrack, RMIT Project Space, Melbourne
Play with Your Food II, Bus Projects @ Meyers Place, Melbourne<
2011Disappearance (in collaboration with Chris Bond), Kings ARI, Melbourne
Westspace 2011, Westspace, Melboure
William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize, MGA, Melbourne
Sturt's Boat, The Art Vault, Mildura
Commodity/Fetishism, West space's The West Wing, Melbourne
2010Bus@Blindside: Play with your Food, Blindside, Melbourne
A4 Art, West Space, Melbourne
Lost in Painting, Dianne Tanzer Gallery + Projects, Melbourne
Secret Files from the Working Men’s College, RMIT Project Space, Melbourne
Re/Gendered, Platform Artist Run Space, Melbourne
2009Graduate Exhibition, VCA, Melbourne
Fromagerie/Slime Store, Street Press Australia, Melbourne
2008Don't you know who I am? Five responses to urban anonymity, Trocadero, Footscray
Reflecting Skin. City Art Rooms, Auckland
Iris Award 2008, Perth Centre for Photography, Perth
moment monument, C3 Contemporary Art Space, Abbotsford Convent
Olive Cotton Award Finalists’ Exhibition, Tweed River Art Gallery, NSW
2007Beyond the Sprawl, Octopad Art Space, London, UK
Sweet and Tender Hooligans, Brighton Media Centre, Brighton, UK


2012Judge, Proud, Victorian College of the Arts
2011NAVA Janet Holmes a Court Artist Grant
Residency at The Art Vault, Mildura
City of Melbourne Arts Projects Grant
Australia Council for the Arts JUMP National Mentorship with Darren Sylvester
2009RMIT Union Arts Grant


Shepparton Art Museum
Private collections in London, New York and across Australia