Art Essays

Polly Borland – Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney

Published November 24, 2018
Polly Borland, 'Morph 25' (2018)

Artist: Polly Borland

Lives: Los Angeles, USA


Represented by:Sullivan + Strumpf, (Murray White Room in Melbourne)

Her thing. Photographs of soft, coccoon-like shapes that will make your skin crawl.

Our take.Polly Borland was born in Melbourne, but has spent most of her working life in London where she  established an international reputation for her dark, surreal, photographs. For the past seven years she has been based in Los Angeles, a move largely dictated by the career of her filmmaker husband, John Hillcoat.

Despite her taste for strange and unsettling images the photo for which Borland is best known is a portrait of the Queen, in which Her Majesty is captured at close quarters against a backdrop of glittering gold. As royal portraits go it’s decidedly odd, but by Borland’s personal standards it’s a very straight picture. Not many of her subjects get off so lightly.

Her Sullivan + Strumpf exhibition, Polymorph, coincides with a survey exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria called Polyverse (until 3 February). One has to look closely at the works being displayed in Sydney to see the human bodies – or parts of bodies – hidden behind diaphanous gauze. Like so much of Borland’s work, there is a hint of Dr. Frankenstein, but also a sense of beauty. It’s proof that an artist doesn’t have to make conventionally attractive images to be at the cutting edge of contemporary taste.


Can I afford it?

There are only five photographs in this show, all go under the generic title, Morph. The two largest, Morph 25 and 27 (both 200cm by 162.5cm, ed.6 + 3 Artist’s Proofs) are selling for $18,500, which is still a long way from the artist’s record price of $30,000. Three smaller works, Morph 3, 10& 21 (92cm by 78.5cm; ed.6 + 3 Artist’s Proofs), are selling for $11,000 each. The show is fleshed out (literally) by 11 smaller and cheaper images.

Where can I have a squiz?

Sullivan + Strumpf, 799 Elizabeth Street, Zetland, Sydney, until 24 November – 22 December, 2019,


Published in The Good Weekend, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 November, 2018