Skulls have been a theme for me lately

It’s partly just co-incidence but I have seen a few skulls lately. Let me be quick to reassure you…not real ones! Artistic ones.

Firstly I was at Victoria’s premier gallery, the NGV, to participate in a drawing session. More of that another time. Towards the end of the session I wandered into the next room where enormous skulls were heaped up. Ron Mueck has created 100 large scale sculptures of the human skull.

The Gallery’s brochure says:

…the work can be read as a study of mortality, recalling the Paris catacombs as well as the mass graves resulting from human atrocities in Cambodia, Rwanda, Srebrenica and Iraq.

They are part of the Gallery’s Triennial exhibition, a truely amazing experience. And a very successful one. The Gallery has been packed with people all the holidays.

My second experience with skulls was at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, another of Victoria’s top galleries. I was up there to have the meeting about our exhibition, “Beckler’s Botanical Bounty: The flora of Menindee” opening late February until late May (shameless plug!). After the meeting I went into “Romancing the Skull”. No prizes for guessing it was an exhibition devoted to skulls in art.

The exhibition explores a range of themes including the skull as a reminder of our mortality, the use of the skull in addressing social and political issues, and the skull and crossbones as a symbol of piracy and rebellion.

If you are quick, you can see the exhibition before it closes on this Sunday 28th.

The variety of pieces was astonishing. I now have a little understanding of the what it takes to put on an exhibition, and I am flabbergasted at the work that must have gone on to pull all these works into one coherent display. These were some of my favourites….

Sam Jinks: Divide (Self-portrait)

I am not sure who created these glass coffins, but my friend Mali Moir and John Pastoriza Pinol created the beautiful, botanic skulls below by painting on vellum. (They are sitting in glass domes.)


And Louise Saxon’s amazing work, Vanitas #2 ~ The Twitcher. I have written before about another exhibition of her work. She constructs her pieces from textiles and pins them into place.

And lastly, the one above is Dale Cox’s work Deadlock.

Well, not quite lastly, because here is one for the quilters amongst us….


It is Lucas Grogan’s The Shroud, and is, according to the wall label, a diary of his travels through Europe, inscribed with his personal impressions and experiences. Curious!

So many different ways to interpret our mortality. Thought provoking, but also beautiful works, and at times quite humorous. Would you have gone to an exhibition featuring skulls?


On a lighter note, a reminder about my fortnightly newsletter. I have begun to send it out again this year, and the first one for 2018 had special offers only available through the newsletter. So if you would like to find out more sign up.

18 replies on “Skulls have been a theme for me lately”

“Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well!” Yes, it’s amazing how steeped we are in the symbology of the skull. With Halloween, even little kids quickly learn that human skulls are supposed to be scary things.
I really like that Sam Jinks Self Portrait. Very clever.


Yes, definitely a long history of skulls as a very powerful symbol. The exhibition had woodcuts and other images of skulls from centuries ago.I suppose we instantly recognise them as “us” and fear them because of the reminder of our own mortality.


I’m not fond of skulls – both real human/animal or artified…something about me gives me the hibbygibbers (sp may be wrong) – and they do seem quite trendy, I keep see other peers at art school making/using them. I’m not keen on bone either – especially carving. Again hibbygibbers…

but who really cares, if it rocks our boat…then I guess we go with the flow…


So it’s not an exhibition you would rush to see! 😉It’s not a symbol that I would use in my work either. However I did sketch one of the big ones at the NGV, which I really enjoyed. The shapes and lines were very satisfying.


Wasn’t it a strange comment about his work? It didn’t relate to the quilt at all. I thought I had the wrong label, but I didn’t. I wonder if he ever went back to Europe!


I get you! Not all the works were morbid. There were wonderful life-size collages of whimsical pirates (the skull and cross-bones) with a large pirate boat taking up one wall.


Like you I love skulls – I have a collection of found animal skulls on my desk which regularly feature in my drawings. The Ron Mueck skulls were amazing – seeing them so enormous, and piled up in a careless way spoke volumes about both humanity and mortality. I would love to have seen the Ballarat exhibition, it looks wonderful, full of interesting ideas, but only had a few days in Melbourne, before returning to Sydney.


I remember seeing your lovely Mueck skulls on Instagram. It’s a shame you missed the Ballarat exhibition, as I think there were art works there that you would have found interesting. Perhaps you can make it to Ballarat to see our Beckler’s Botanical Bounty exhibition……😊

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I wouldn’t have thought of skulls being my thing given my aversion to dead things but artistically & symbolically they are fascinating. I think for me, it’s the organic shape, the subtle variations of sameness… if you know what I mean.


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