Underneath The Fig Tree

Underneath The Fig Tree

Solo exhibition by Michelle Genders

4th to 14th November 2015

Chrissie Cotter Gallery


Artwork included:

At the top of the fig tree

Self-portrait underneath the fig tree

Fig tree graffiti (names)

Fig tree graffiti (hands)

Fig tree leaves

Fig tree roots

A gathering at the fig tree

Strong limbs

A fig tree remembered


Artist statement:

October 2014

I previously lived on Denison Street, Newtown for many years. It is an approximately 5 minute walk from this gallery. I often return to visit the area which has a special place in my heart. When I jump off the bus on Parramatta Road, or walk up Enmore Road and through The Hub, it still feels like coming home. But I view the area differently after moving away. Its infamous graffiti used to occupy my vision. But now, when I reflect on it, the most prominent image in my mind’s eye is that of a large fig tree. I propose to create an exhibition about this metaphysical fig tree. I remember riding my bike past its thick, protruding roots. Lying underneath its green, shady limbs. Looking up at chattering rainbow lorikeets in its branches.

November 2014

I visited Camperdown to investigate this vision. And realised that, rather than remembrance of one particular tree, my vision was made up of a number of large fig trees:
Five Morton bay fig trees in Camperdown park
One Morton bay fig tree in Camperdown memorial rest area
A corridor of Port Jackson fig trees on Northwood Street
One Port Jackson fig in O’Dea reserve

The location of these trees is shown on the map below:

Research revealed that these two species of fig tree are native to the area, and that these particular trees were planted during the first development of the area, circa 1850. A short walk from my previous home, these trees used to be such a part of everyday life that I didn’t notice them consciously. Now they sit at the forefront of my mind.

November 2015

It’s been one year since I began contemplating the fig trees. I’ve visited them quite a few times. I’ve researched the history of the area. I’ve considered my own personal experiences during the time I lived there. Like any urban area, Camperdown has been the site of different incarnations. Some notable moments in time were:

* In the mid to late 1800’s Camperdown memorial rest was a cemetery. It was the main burial area for Anglicans residing in Sydney and an estimated 18,0000 people were buried there.
* In the 20th century the large, bustling Bonds factory spread across a large part of the suburb and many of the factory workers lived nearby.

(A more detailed and factually correct history of the area can be found at Newtown library.)

I also noticed, again for the first time consciously, that there are many of large fig trees in Sydney. For example, there is a path Moreton Bay figs at Sydney University and a cluster of Port Jackson figs at the College of Fine Arts. Fig trees are like the pigeons – everywhere! They are very much integrated into Sydney’s urban environment. Even though they can be a bit worse for wear, when you look that them twice their forms reveal a certain quality of beauty.



Creation * Protection * Transformation

Creation * Protection * Transformation

Solo exhibition by Michelle Genders

2nd to 13th April 2015

Gaffa Gallery

Part of the ‘Unlimited Substance‘ series of exhibitions curated by Michelle Genders.


Artwork included:





Artist statement:

Creation * Protection * Transformation references primal energies, geometric yantras and information collected by the Hubble Space Telescope.

In ancient Hindu philosophy the universe is conceptualised as being made up of three primal energies: creation, protection and transformation. Each of these energies is traditionally associated with particular divinities and represented with geometric symbols called yantras.

This ancient typology is consistent with recent discoveries about outer space using advanced technology that collects information from multiple wavelengths on the UV spectrum. From this information we have developed a detailed knowledge of the life cycle of stars. We know that stars are created in stellar nebulae. We know that stars transform into supernovas. And we know that throughout their life cycle stars are held protected within the gravitation pull of a galaxy. NASA has published images of stars at various stages of their lives.

This installation expresses the forces of the three primal energies, the aesthetics of the NASA images and the geometric yantras.


Cosmic Orb Weavers

Cosmic Orb Weavers 

Solo exhibition by Michelle Genders

27th June to 8th July 2013

Gaffa Gallery


Artwork included:

Star space

We search for answers

We receive the signals

A network that’s accessible anywhere




Artist statement:

The Weaver lived in a time of evolution from paper to electricity. She sat in her room surrounded by information gathered, processed, disseminated and consumed. Multiple copies stored on discs, thumb drives, servers and memory cards. Information printed onto reams of A4 paper, collated into glossy books and stacked in yellowing newspaper that left the smell of ink on her fingers. The Weaver’s history was stored in 6 email accounts, 4 social networking profiles and 25 archival cardboard boxes. She searched the internet using any one of 9 personal computing devices. Her nervous system was synchronised to the device’s vibrations and hours passed as she traversed 2 dimensional spaces. Brain buzzing, breathing shallow, eyes flicking. Immersed in maps of data, webs of knowledge and virtual social networks.

The Weaver suddenly became conscious of her body. She looked away from the screen and out the open window. She noticed a cool breeze on her cheeks. She stood up and took a deep breath.

The Weaver lived on the earth. Connected with every other location on the globe but rooted to a particular geographical place. She left the devices and papers in a pile on the floor and walked outside barefoot to the park across the street. The Weaver pressed her feet into the grass, stretched her arms in the air and looked up at the sunny sky. She imagined satellites circling the world, robots exploring other planets and telescopes surveying the universe. These technologies reported back on the mechanics of the solar system, the birth and death of stars and the slow revolutions of galaxies. The Weaver knew there was no technology able to transport her physical body to even the closest planet or the nearest star. She would remain dependent on the solar system of which the earth was a part. Watching the transitions of dusk and dawn, the clouds moving across the bright blue sky and the phases of the beaming moon. 

Cosmic Orb Weavers is an installation of sculptures and drawings that explore networks on information in the context of the electronic revolution, increased knowledge of outer space due to advanced technology and renewed interest in spiritual traditions.




Solo exhibition by Michelle Genders

3rd to 20th October 2012



Artwork included:

Radical transformation

Novel observation

Potential truth


Artist statement:

These drawings were developed by experimenting with the principals in Professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka‘s visual illusions. He studies the underlying mechanisms of visual perception in the brain and generates illusions that activate those mechanisms.

These drawings use illusion to explore the intersection between science and spirituality with respect to the polarity that appears to categorise our experience – that which is inside (the body) and that which is outside (the universe).

In the area of psychology, more is known about the human brain than ever before. In the areas of cosmology and astrophysics, knowledge about the universe has increased rapidly. Advanced technology has facilitated discoveries that have altered the way we conceive of ourselves and the universe.

Our embodied experience feels separate from the rest of the universe. But, spiritual traditions such as yoga, meditation, mysticism and beliefs of indigenous culture assume that the inside and outside lie on the same continuum.

At face value, scientific discoveries appear to be consistent with spiritual traditions. There are similarities between the methods used, for example repetitive observation and rigorous discipline. However, the fundamental assumptions of science and spirituality are different.

‘Possibilities’ is a word that reflects these contradictory assumptions. It means both something that might exist and something that is fact. It puts forwards the promise that anything is possible, but holds expectation that things should be proven.





Solo exhibition by Michelle Genders

28th March to 15th April 2012

Paper Plane Gallery


Artwork included:




Things you can see to indicate things you can’t see 1

Things you can see to indicate things you can’t see 2

Things you can see to indicate things you can’t see 3

Things you can see to indicate things you can’t see 4

Things you can see to indicate things you can’t see 5


Artist statement:

Phenomenal means extraordinary. It also means that which is perceptible through the senses or immediate experience.

More is known about the mechanics of human visual perception than ever before, but it is still not known why some visual illusions occur.

More is known about the structure of the universe (or possibly universes) than ever before, yet only a small proportion of what exists can be seen directly.

Many scientific theories have been proven recently. This generates many more theories that may or may not be provable.

I can only believe what my senses tell me.

As a tiny observer of the infinite cosmic cycle of creation and destruction, what can I really understand of all that is inside and outside of me?

Why have I been deposited in this limited body, that happens to have consciousness?

Why do I exist on a planet, that happens to have life?

A planet in a galaxy located at the corner of the universe, that happens to have a wonderful view?

There is no clear answer. Still, it seems that cultivation of the beauty I can experience is one response to these questions.


The concept for this exhibition was developed during my 6 month residency at Firstdraft Depot Affordable Studios in 2011.