Fiona Hall was born in Sydney in 1953 and studied at the National Art School between 1972 and 1975. From 1979 to 1982 she attended the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York, graduating with a Master of Fine Arts (Photography). Since 1983 she has been a lecturer in Photostudies at the South Australian School of Art, at the University of South Australia. Hall has participated in numerous survey exhibitions of Australian art since 1974, and has held solo exhibitions since 1981. In 1997 she was the recipient of the inaugural $100 000 Contempora5 Prize for contemporary Australian art, organised by the National Gallery of Victoria.
Paradisus Terrestris entitled is a series of fifteen sardine cans, transformed from the mundane detritus of contemporary consumption into refined aesthetic objects. The wound-down top of each tin reveals a human erogenous zone or body-part. Sprouting above these are botanically correct representations of native flora – suggestive equivalents of the anatomical details below. While these suggestive associations are often visual puns, Hall also uses the juxtaposition of the human body and native flora to imply a collision between Culture and Nature. Each component of the work bears three titles: the local Aboriginal plant name specific to the language group indicated in parentheses, the Latin (botanical) name, and the common English name.
Paradisus Terrestris entitled has art historical referents in examples of colonial decorative arts. For nineteenth-century goldsmiths and silversmiths, most of whom were European immigrants, Australian native flora and fauna provided a bizarre and diverse stock of new decorative forms. Hall’s inclusion of Aboriginal names (in consultation with indigenous peoples) in conjunction with Latin and common plant names refers to the colonial appropriation of land, and to laying claim to land through language. ‘… Entitled’ refers specifically to concepts of ownership, and situates Hall’s virtuoso suite of sardine cans squarely within the discourses of postcolonialism.