detail: Sally Smart, born 1960, Conversation piece #II, from the series  Design Therapy, 2002, synthetic polymer paint on felt. South Australian Government Grant 2002


SALA Featured Artist - Sally SMART


Conversation piece #II, 2002


In her installation Conversation piece #II, South Australian-born artist Sally Smart revives the tradition of the silhouette, the parlour craft of portraiture made popular during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Smart remakes the group portrait or conversation piece by using the profiles, or cast shadows, of her family and friends along with various additions to generate humour and curiosity.


Although adopted predominantly as a benign leisure activity, silhouettes were also embraced by Johann Kasper Lavater, who used them to demonstrate his physiognomic theory that one’s external features were signifiers of internal traits. By accompanying her painted felt silhouettes with small numerals, Smart recalls the pseudo-scientific uses of the silhouette.


Theresa Walker’s wax medallion portraits hung nearby strike up a conversation with Smart’s felt silhouettes. Walker arrived in South Australia in 1837 and, like Smart, based her portraits on her friends and acquaintances, including Kertamaroo and Mocatta, Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains.


Theresa Walker, Australia, 1807-1876, Portraits of South Australian residents, early 1840s, wax, 8.0 cm (each). Bequest of George Hance 1905


detail: Sally Smart
Australia, born 1960
Conversation piece #II
from the series Design Therapy
2002, Melbourne
synthetic polymer paint on felt
South Australian Government Grant 2002
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
© Sally Smart, Licensed by Viscopy, Australia 2011


Theresa Walker
Australia, 1807-1876
Portraits of South Australian residents
early 1840s, Adelaide
8.0 cm (each)
Bequest of George Hance 1905
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide


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