Installation view of Heather B Swann’s <em>Ouroboros</em> on display in NGV Triennial from 3 December 2023 – 7 April 2024 at NGV International, Melbourne. Photo: Sean Fennessy

Heather B. Swann

Photo: Matthew Newton

Heather B. Swann
Australia born 1961

Level 2
NGV International
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Heather B. Swann’s Ouroboros is a three metre-wide sculpture, which has been meticulously carved and moulded by the artist in her Tasmanian studio. The coiled black figure, depicted consuming its own tail, embodies the arcane symbol of the ouroboros, prevalent in various ancient cultures including Celtic, Egyptian and Greek, often representing the cyclical nature of existence, self-reflexivity and the eternal cycle of life and death. Swann’s rendition captures not only the mysticism and eternal continuity inherent to this ancient emblem, but also the darker undertones of self-destruction and regeneration.

Australian artist Heather B. Swann is renowned for her large-scale, meticulously crafted sculptural forms and drawings that draw on feminist literature, mythology, Graeco-Roman antiquities and classical figurative sculpture. Her work commonly includes references to and abstractions of the face or a body part in a restrained palette. Since 1993 she has held more than twenty solo exhibitions. Her work has been included in major exhibitions in Australia, including at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; and the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. Her 2021 exhibition Leda and the Swan was held at the TarraWarra Museum of Art, Melbourne. In 2022 Swann was commissioned, in collaboration with Nonda Katsalidis, to create a permanent public artwork for the Setouchi Triennale, Japan.

Commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Purchased with funds donated by Susan Jones and James McGrath, 2023