In her photographic tableaux, Australian artist Anne Ferran calls to mind the densely populated scenes found in ancient Greek temples. The greatest of these was the Parthenon, constructed on the hill of the Acropolis between 447-432 BC and dedicated to the goddess Athena. While the Parthenon’s pediments depicted stories relating to the gods and goddesses in the Greek pantheon, the temple’s 160-metre-long frieze illustrated a public procession that formed part of the Great Panathenaia, a festival honouring Athena. Ferran’s all-female cast includes the artist’s daughters and her daughter’s friends, all wearing classical dress and assuming the gestures and poses found in classical monuments.

  • Describe Anne Ferran’s work of art as though you are describing it to someone who cannot see the work. Look at it closely and then sketch it from memory.
  • Locate three other works of art in the exhibition (or in the permanent collection) that share characteristics with Ferran’s photographs. What did you discover? Discuss your selections with a partner.
  • Anne Ferran often addresses the idea of forgotten female histories in her work. Research one of the following women:
    • Claude Cahun
    • Dame Jean Macnamara
    • Dorothy Lawrence
    • Fanny Cochrane Smith
    • Louisa Margaret Dunkley
    • Marion Mahony Griffin
    • Olive Cotton
    • Rosalind Franklin

Did you discover any other important women who have been overlooked? Share your findings with the class.

  • Ferran’s photographs possess strong formal qualities. Make a list of the dominant elements in this work.
  • Borrow a selection of costumes from your drama department and create a tableau with your classmates. Direct your actors into theatrical positions that consider the formal elements identified earlier. Photograph your scene, paying close attention to composition.