Sally-Ann Rowland was awarded an Anne & Gordon Samstag International Art Scholarship in 2000, and in 2002 an Australia Council Studio at PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York. She studied Fine Art at Columbia University, receiving the Joan Sovern Prize for Sculpture. Rowland has exhibited widely, including exhibitions at PS1 Contemporary Art Center, ZieherSmith, and Guild & Greyshkul in New York, Mark Moore Gallery in Los Angeles, Western Exhibitions in Chicago, the Experimental Art Foundation, the Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia and the Samstag Art Museum in Adelaide, and more recently, in Paris, Ulaanbaatar and Fremantle, Western Australia.  Her work has appeared in Artforum, the Chicago Tribune, and Sculpture.  She is represented in private collections in Australia, France and the USA. 


Selected Texts

Clichéd concept art is as common as a henchman with bad aim – a dime a dozen, you might say – but Bums on Stars has its thinking cap on. Rowland’s all about taking the clichés from everyday ephemera like banal conversations and Women’s Weekly and decomposing them back into clichéd teatowels and mugs. Gift store regulars become entwined with forgettable pleasantries in an unholy ourobouros of personal and commercial triviality – what was that about life’s lemons and lemonade? Even though beauty is in the eye of the beholder, this is definitely worth a look: Sally’s future is so bright she’s got to wear shades. Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today – head down there – time is money!

Alex Griffin, ‘Sally-Ann Rowland: “Bums on Stars”‘, 6000, 2013


In the front room, the walls are painted a lurid greed (reflecting ghostly off the backs of plinths) and a refrigerator bears lamps whose heat apparently draws the hundreds of magnetic ladybirds that cluster with unremitting appetite across its cool surfaces. A series of sculptures line the room, each encasing and elevating a ‘personal souvenir’, a series of potted indoor plants. Breathless in voluptuous black velvet, copiously adorned with green-purple iridescent beading, the objects, the work of Sally-Ann Rowland, conflate an implied depth of emotion with the sensation of physical touch and the enactment of a devotional process.

Lisa Harms, ‘CACSA Contemporary 2010’, Artlink, 2010


The vapidity of the visual and textual sentiments of readymade greeting cards is hard to top, and their consequent potential as ground for collage is equally hard to resist. In her second solo show at ZieherSmith, featuring a series of new works, Sally-Ann Rowland digs beneath the saccharine surface of these printed ephemera for the rot that lies beneath, unearthing shadows, decay, and vomit-y spray that spreads across the image in the charming form of appliqué. Rowland’s colorful threads and beads eat their way across images as grossly Hallmark-esque as a sepia-toned golden retriever puppy, a mother ogling her newborn in high-contrast black-and-white, and a classic American farmstead scene in Technicolor blues and greens. With the addition of her parasitical decorations, the puppy finds himself lapping at a puddle of brown, bejeweled drool; the mother gets a face full of sequined puke; and the farmhouse is torn up by a vicious twister of black pearls. The added trimmings applied with an admirably delicate touch of glue gun and needle are less adornment than mold, each bauble a spore spreading organically across sugar coating, sponging off the cheap, easy nourishment that sustains it.

Lori Waxman, ‘Critics’ Picks’, Artforum, 2004


Sally-Ann Rowland exhibited a bathtub piece – MirageMirage is a sculptural environment consisting of cheap plastic plants and animals that together create a marine-like landscape in a bathtub. Rowland plays on emotional instincts, motherhood, tender love and care, leavening them with humor.

Tsipi Ben-Haim, ‘Art Basel Miami Beach’, Sculpture, 2004


Looking like something you might find in Martha Stewart’s prison cell, Sally-Ann Rowland’s pretty, beaded cross-stitched samplers lend a dose of acid to a fondly domestic pursuit. Instead of ‘Home Sweet Home’ or other such saccharine homilies, Rowland’s framed embroidery sports terms of resignation, like ‘Oh well’ or ‘I don’t understand’, or even expletives. Don’t look for cherubs or butterflies cavorting about her handiwork either: Poisonous plants and mushrooms are the subject matter, alluding to the historical association between females and poisoning …

Ellen Fox, ‘Home sweet home isn’t all that sweet’, Chicago Tribune, 2004


Sally-Ann Rowland has spent the past year as the Australian representative in P.S. 1’s studio program producing a seductive and seditious exhibition of carefully embroidered and beaded samplers. They’re not your traditional needlework. Each one contains a motto and a flower or plant which, lovely as they are, are all toxic in some way: poison ivy, nightshade and belladonna, and a couple of deadly mushrooms. The phrases range from the passive-aggressive “Just Kidding” to “It Matters to Me” (some of a gunman’s final words before a rampage at the University of Arizona). The emotionally distancing, even disturbing, phrases come in ironically appealing colors and glittery beads.

Charlie Suisman, Manhattan User’s Guide, 2003


The fearful and the uncanny, are more directly referred to in Sally-Ann Rowland’s work, and we are returned to that time when the world is most animate, as we have not yet made the psychological separation between us and it – that in theory, comes later as we coalesce into ‘self’ – so everything in the world is possessed with a weird volition as it may be part of us. Here there are definite echoes of Freud’s vast oceanic feeling as we are presented with an open door with a spinning top balanced on it, poised to tumble if some one, some thing, something unknown and scary should push the door further ajar to gain access to our room. Such clever trickery and clever trappery should make us feel secure as we huddle (in memory) under the bedclothes transfixed upon this awful crack, until we realise that this Burglar Alarm is a fake: a top cannot remain upright unless it is spinning and here there is no movement. If it can’t rotate can it fall? That this is becoming some frozen interdimensional threat is reinforced by the hard and solid velvet darkness behind the door, a chthonic other made concrete and dense …

Richard Grayson, ‘Doctorin’ the TARDIS’, catalogue essay for Landing3, Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, 2000


Books consists of a small pile of books, each bound with two spines so that they can never be opened. We turn one of these volumes over in an effort to find the pages, only to find another spine. Out of habit we repeat the action, and in a moment we are trapped in a vicious circle, endlessly turning the book over and over, even if only in our minds, like an obsessive compulsive. On a phenomenological armature such as this, Rowland typically builds broader metaphysical themes. In Books the implied endlessness of the banal gesture – apprehended, if not completed – by the mind, stretches to infinity, giving a dismal intimation of a Kantian sublime. All the while, the pristine pages, the object of this activity, remain unreachable, inviolate, noumenal.

Michael Newall, Catalogue essay for Gold Card2, Experimental Art Foundation, 1998


Stalemate … comprises a steel box that stands on the floor. The top of the box is a basin 2cm deep filled with treacle, which appears continuous with the sides of the box. It looks completely solid at first glance – the treacle is the same shiny black as the box. In the treacle stands a chess set, minus Kings and Kings’ pawns, ready for commencement. This chess game is a hopeless non-event. With no Kings to checkmate, the game is purposeless …

There are double-spined books on the desk. The desk drawers have had their handles removed and can’t be opened. The top drawer is slightly open but can’t be opened further to reveal what’s inside. The windows are opaque – dark blue velvet – their sills are covered in white felt. The slightly open drawer suggests a secret there to be shared, but it won’t talk. The carpet muffles the space, the possibility of revelation via the window is thwarted. The room seems empty but is actually occupied. It’s a metaphor for the mind – one never thinks about nothing, and while the space may look normal, there is much happening and much to hide …

The materiality of Rowland’s work never obscures the possibility of metaphor. Objects are never simply, enigmatically, only what they are. The first encounter with the work is easy – well-known objects. But they’re clues to a riddle, and she finely balances the game for the viewer. The objects suggest a process in which defeat is rendered inherent, and then, individually, suggest other meanings. …

Each object is employed symbolically in a process. These objects are not merely recontextualised – it’s the purpose, the process, inherent in each object that we are being shown. We’re offered an object we could potentially use but can’t because the uses inherent in the object have been defeated. The failed process is itself a metaphor … Rowland’s art recalls the Taoist axiom: ‘He who acts, spoils; he who grasps, lets slip’.

Chris Reid, ‘Sally-Ann Rowland: The Allegorical Imagination’, Broadsheet, 2000