Sculpture; installation; drawing; painting; photography; video.
Field of Research (FoR)
Senior Lecturer, School of Art
A pioneer of Australian environmental/socio-political art, I have been exhibiting sculpture, photography, performance, painting, video, writing and drawing since 1969. Recently I performed for camera in the Darling River at Menindee, immersing myself - us - in the fish kill. My artwork, 'Plastikus Progressus', addresses the plastic pollution of the the trans ecology of water, deploying photography, sound, a...view more
Senior Lecturer, School of Art
A pioneer of Australian environmental/socio-political art, I have been exhibiting sculpture, photography, performance, painting, video, writing and drawing since 1969. Recently I performed for camera in the Darling River at Menindee, immersing myself - us - in the fish kill. My artwork, 'Plastikus Progressus', addresses the plastic pollution of the the trans ecology of water, deploying photography, sound, a touch screen, image and text, sculpture and works on paper in a futurist installation mimicking a natural history museum's diorama set in the year, 2054. Here, genetically engineered plastic eating creatures made of vacuum cleaners clean up our mess for us.
In 2017 I represented Australia in documenta 14 in Kassel and Athens, funded by an Australia Council Grant, NSW Arts Grant and a Faculty Research Grant. In Kassel, 'Interior Decoration' addressed inter generational post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as an outcome of war, and Plastikus Progressus was shown in the Athens iteration of documenta 14. My artwork is in national and international collections and has been selected for prestigious national and international events as above. Recent exhibitions include a survey of my futuristic artworks, titled 'Bonita Ely: Future Tense' at the Griffith University Art Museum (2019, 2020); Murray River Grids in 'Water', QAGOMA, Brisbane (2019, 2020); 'We Live to be Surprised: the Snabbits', a travelling exhibition, UK (2018, 2019); 'Itchy Feet: at Home with the Locust People' (1974), exhibited in the 2019/2020 Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection Hang; 'Tell Me Tell Me: Australian and Korean Art' 1976-2011, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea (2011); 'Outside Inside: Fragments in Place', Museum of Art, Brigham Young University, Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A. (2003–04).Public art projects include 'Thunderbolt' for the celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Sydney Olympic Games at Sydney Olympic Park (2010), and 'Lake Thunder', a public sculpture commission for the 4th International Sculpture Symposium, Hue, Vietnam (2006) and 'Longevity: Scissors and Sickles', a public sculpture commission in Hue, Vietnam (2002).
Now retired, I lectured in the Sculpture, Performance and Installation Studies Area at the University of New South Wales Australia Art and Design faculty from 1990 to 2017. I am a founding member of the Environmental Research Institute of Art (ERIA) at UNSW, funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage research grant. Represented by Milani Gallery, Brisbane.
2019 Articulate Project Space artist in residence, Sydney. Production and exhibition of Archeological Survey: Inner West Sector. Installation.
2018 Civitella Ranieri Foundation, artist in residence, Umbria, Italy.
2018 Artist in Residence, Brewery Tap Gallery, Folkestone, UK
2016 Australia Council Grant to produce works for Documenta14 - "Memento Mori: TransEcological Trauma and War" $50,000
2016 ArtsNSW Grant to produce works for Documenta14 - "Memento Mori: TransEcological Trauma and War" $60,000
2016 Faculty Research Grant, travel to Athens to present a lecture and workshop on PTSD for the Documenta 14 Public Program.
2016 Ku-ring-gai pH Art + Science Program, Manly Gallery/Ku-rin-gai Chase residency
2015 New South Wales Artists’ Grant - Transport of artworks to Mildura, for 10th Palimpsest Biennale. Arts NSW, the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, administered by the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA).
2014 Faculty Research Grant, COFA, UNSW to research the affects of PTSD on Australian narratives of identity and social dysfunction as a subject of art. $4,795
2012 Australia Council Grant to research the inter generational transfer of post traumatic stress disorder after the 2nd World War. $20,000
2012 Faculty Research Grant, COFA, UNSW to research the inter generational transfer of post traumatic stress disorder after the 2nd World War. $4,800
2011 Faculty Research Grant, COFA, UNSW to research the inter generational transfer of post traumatic stress disorder after the 2nd World War. $10,000
2010 Sydney Olympic Park Authority Public Art commission, $25,440
2009 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant to research robust applications of sustainable energy to power public artworks.
2008, 2009 Research grants for PhD studies, School of Communication Arts, University of Western Sydney.
008 Special Studies program, COFA, UNSW. PhD completion.
2007 Faculty Research Grant, COFA, UNSW; research of comparative images of the Murray River.
2006 Faculty Research Grant, COFA, UNSW to research cross cultural tertiary education [second phase, see below].
2006 Faculty Research Grant, COFA, UNSW to research the inter face of public art and digital technologies.
2005 Faculty Research Grant, Asian Students at UNSW: Learning Experiences, Expectations and Outcomes. An inter faculty grant with lecturers from Japanese Studies, Medicine, English, Chemistry, the UNSW Learning and Teaching Unit, Business – UNSW @ ADFA, Law, Engineering.
2004, 2005 COFA Online Fellowship. $5000. Designed and implemented COFA’s first sculpture courses online, Cross Cultural Sculpture, Cross Cultural Installation Art, following my Innovative Teaching and Educational Technology (ITET) Fellowship (below).
2003 ITET Fellowship UNSW. Project to create student-centred, multicultural learning environments to inspire collaborative dialogues/narratives from which individual ideas for studio project work may be developed confidently by stakeholders.
2001 UNSW University Research Support Program. $7500 Attendance of the 3rd International Sculpture Symposium: Vietnam in Hué, to research and produce a public, inter disciplinary sculpture.
2001 Faculty Research Grant, College of Fine Arts, UNSW, Sydney. $1500. Research for art works concerned with catharsis and a complex analysis of Australian mythology related to notions of heroism, and the Stolen Generations.
2000 Special Studies Program, UNSW Field work in Hué, Vietnam to document calligraphic characters that signify longevity, and adorn traditional architecture, vernacular objects and artefacts. In consultation with Dr. Phan Thuan Anh, Director of Research at the Hué Monuments Conservation Centre [a UNESCO World Heritage Project].
1998 Development Grant, Visual Arts/Crafts Fund, Australia Council. $8,000 Attendance of the 2nd International Sculpture Symposium: Vietnam in Hué, to research and produce a public sculpture.
1997 Faculty Research Grant, College of Fine Arts, UNSW, Sydney. $5,540. Research of proprioceptual qualities to develop peripatetic approach to the spatial as a vehicle for meaning. Development of two sculptures, Jugggernaut, and, “50” using the flexibility and tensile strength of plywood sheets as the structural elements. Two international & three national exhibitions. Catalogue essay.
1997 Research project to produce a series of interdisciplinary, experimental, site specific installations for Elizabeth Bay House, a historic colonial residence in Sydney, College of Fine Arts, UNSW. $1021.
1996 Special Studies Program, UNSW Field study of propioceptual spatiality in Dravidian temple complexes, Southern India, C18th European Gardens and architectural follies.
1994 Small Australian Research Council Grant, College of Fine Arts, UNSW, Sydney. $4,000 Field trip to Warburton Aboriginal Community in the Gibson Desert to research how the spatial is mythologised in traditional Ngaanyatjarra culture and to analysis proprioceptual qualities of Ngaanyatjarra cultural practices for the development of sculpture that alludes to mythologised spatiality.
1993 Faculty Research Grant, College of Fine Arts, U.N.S.W., Sydney. $1,800. Research space as an expressive element in six traditional gardens in Kyoto, Japan in preparation for further research related to an installation for the Fifth Australian Sculpture Triennial
1993, 1994 Residency in the Australia Council Studio, 18th Street Arts Complex, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, U.S.A. $7,500. Visual Arts/Crafts Board, Australia Council, Professional Development Grant, to research contemporary urban mythologies in relation to popular culture.
1988 Visual Arts/Crafts Board, Australia Council, Full-Standard Grant. $18,000. To research how iconic Australian landscapes are culturally impacted in relation to perceptions of ‘wilderness’.
1985 Artist in Residence, Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin. Research for Dogwoman Makes History; performance and installation exhibited in Making Appearances: a survey of Australian contemporary art, Charlottenberg Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark.
1982 Artist in Residence, Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin. Research for Dogwoman Communicates with the Younger Generation; performance and installation.
1981 Victorian Ministry of the Arts Literature Grant – publication, Murray River , entitled “Murray/Murundi”. The juxtaposition of an Aboriginal woman’s and a white Australian woman’s perceptions of the history and cultural significance of the Murray River [interviews].
1981 Artist in residence, Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide.
1979 Further funding for WAREP from Schools Commission (see below).
1979 Residency, Tasmanian College of Advanced Education, Hobart, Invitation to make paper works at “Jabberwocky Paper Mill”.
1977 Visual Arts Board, Australia Council. Special Projects Grant for Mount Feathertop Project [continued].
1977 Schools Commission Innovations Program for project entitled “Women’s Art Register Extension Project” (WAREP) involving the research, collection, documentation and collation of material to address the dearth of information about historical and contemporary Australian women artists, made available to borrowers and schools through the inter library lending scheme. For educational use, held in the Carringbush Library, Richmond, in collaboration with the George Paton and Ewing Galleries, Melbourne University.
1976 Visual Arts Board, Australian Council, Special Project Grant for Mount Feathertop Project, to research a pristine Australian landscape as a vehicle of culturally encoded significance.
Doctor of Philosophy, University of Western Sydney. 2009.
Master of Art (Fine Arts), Sydney College of the Arts. Sydney University, 1991.
Diploma of Fine Arts (Sculpture) Prahran College of Fine Arts, Melbourne, 1969.
Certificate of Art (Painting), Caulfield Technical College, Melbourne, 1966.
My Research Activities
My research to inform my art practice began in 1972 when living in the polluted city of London and carried forward in New York, creating the Locust People. This series of artworks are still considered significant, the Installation, "C20th Mythological Beasts: at Home with the Locust People" will be exhibited this year in QAGOMA, Brisbane; the painting "Itchy Feet" is in the 'Collection Hang' at the AGNSW, and "The Locust People" is in the survey exhibition in the Griffith University Art Museum, Brisbane. Recognised as a pioneer in installation art and environmental art, multi-media art and feminist art, I am represented in national and international collections, and my work have been selected for prestigious art events national and internationally, for example documenta 14 in Kassel and Athens, 2017.