Museum of Brisbane

Food & Art: Marian Drew

  • Learn more about artist Marian Drew

Food & Art: Marian Drew

Marian Drew is a Brisbane-based photographic artist born in Bundaberg in 1960. Contemporary still life is a key genre of Marian’s investigation, and her images are often created by juxtaposing ornamental objects and roadkill, laid out on dining tables replete with beautifully embroidered or white tablecloths. The compositions in her photographs are unsettling: a beautiful setting, fruit and crockery in luscious colours match those of the dead animals. The arrangements are exposed by a camera over a long duration in a dark room, and then Marian paints the scenes with torchlight.  Bringing the roadkill into her own home, Marian confronts her own relationship with animals and with death. Marian references the fact that many native animals are killed by powerlines, pets and vehicles in our urban environment probing contemporary societal attitudes towards animals, death, responsibilities and sensibilities in urban life.  

Image: Marian Drew in her studio. Courtesy the artist. | Banner: Marian Drew (Bundaberg b. 1960), Pelican with turnips (detail) 2005, photograph. Courtesy the artist.


Image: Marian Drew (Bundaberg b. 1960), Wallaby with tarpaulin 2005, photograph. Courtesy the artist.


Image: Marian Drew (Bundaberg b. 1960), Butcher with knife 2003, photograph. Courtesy the artist.

Marian explored figurative photography in the 1980s and 90s, in which the figures are distorted and seem to be moving, though they are still. This effect was produced by exploring private performance and recording the body movement in sequence. The impossible movements of the body became a means of exploring the psychological impact of Marian’s personal change, such as moving to New York.

In 2013, Marian created a series of photographs entitled Centrepiece (2014) based on still life arrangements on a table. At the time, Marian was making sculptures from found porcelain ornaments. The photographs in this series playfully combine found objects such as fruit, wood and coral with porcelain objects like cups or birds and beautiful cloths, all photographed in front of printed or actual land or skyscapes. These compositions, which echo the Dutch tradition of still life, spark the viewer’s imagination and create intrigue into the various narratives depicted.

In 2007, Marian featured in the group exhibition Twenty artists Twenty years at Museum of Brisbane. In 2014, Marian collaborated with fellow artist, jeweller Barbara Heath, on a piece called Maisie and Bab’s Garden Sketchbook for the Museum of Brisbane exhibition Silver, exploring the historical significance of silver in art and culture. Marian’s work Lydia Pearson (2019), received the Digital Award in the 2019 Brisbane Portrait Prize competition, and was acquired by Museum of Brisbane.

Marian has created an impressive body of work to wide acclaim over more than three decades. In addition, she has pursued a career in tertiary education and is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. Marian is an internationally celebrated artist, having held over forty solo exhibitions and numerous group exhibitions in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Germany, France, China, Dubai, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Peru. Marian’s work is held in numerous international and Australian collections. She represented Australia in Brisbane in 1993, in the First Asia Pacific Triennial; in China in 2010, at the Pingyao International Photography Festival; and in Paris in 2011, at the Photography Biennale, Photoquai. More recently, Marian’s work has continued to appear in international exhibitions such as the Dubai Photo Exhibition in 2016 and the travelling exhibition, Wall Power: Contemporary Australian Photography, held in 2017 / 2018 in Cologne, Berlin, London and Paris. In Australia, some of her more recent exhibitions include Still Life at the Casula Powerhouse in Sydney in 2017; Devonian Flesh: Swallowing the Cave at Turner Galleries in Perth in 2018; and Survey 1983 – 2018 at Andrew Baker Art Dealer in Brisbane in 2019.

Image: Marian Drew (Bundaberg b. 1960), Pelican with turnips (detail) 2005, photograph. Courtesy the artist.