Teacher, painter, photographer, sculptor and installation artist born in 1953 in Sydney, New South Wales, the second of two children born to Ruby Hall (nee Payne-Scott), a radio astronomer and physics graduate of Sydney University and William Hall, a telephone technician with the Post Master General’s Department.
Hall’s early years were spent in the outer Sydney suburb of Oatley where her love of nature was encouraged during family bushwalking and camping expeditions in the nearby Royal National Park. Her parents were supportive of her artistic abilities from the outset and her mother often took her to see exhibitions. Hall attended Oatley West Primary school from 1959 to 1965 and then went on to attend Penshurst High School from 1966 until 1971.
Hall began studying a Diploma of Painting at East Sydney Technical College in 1972 but was also interested in other mediums such as sculpture. It was during this time that she began to experiment with photography with the encouragement of her painting teacher, John Firth-Smith. Hall chose to study photography as a minor under the tutelage of George Schwarz along with screen-printing with David Rose.
Hall exhibited her work for the first time in 1974 at the Ewing and George Paton Galleries, and upon graduating in 1975 exhibited work as a part of 'Six Australian Women Photographers’ at the Australian Centre of Photography in Sydney and the National Gallery of Victoria.
In 1976 Hall commenced two years as photographic assistant to Fay Godwin and during this time had her first solo exhibition at London’s Creative Camera Gallery in 1977. Hall was based in the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1978 and travelled around Europe whilst also taking part in group exhibitions in Italy and London.
Hall’s first solo exhibition in Australia followed in 1978 at Church Street Photography Centre in Melbourne. Hall spent the next four years studying a Master of Fine Arts (Photography) at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York, returning to Australia in 1981 to live in Tasmania, where she was artist-in-residence at the Tasmanian School of Art in Hobart for nearly a year with the aid of funding from the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council for the Arts.
In 1981, five of Hall’s photographs were acquired by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, this was the first time her work had become part of a public Australian collection. Hall moved to Adelaide in 1983 and worked as a lecturer in Photostudies at the South Australian School of Art, where she was to teach until 1997.
1985 saw Hall take part in the Australian Centre for Photography’s American Polaroid Corporation project for which she created her series The Seven Deadly Sins using a large format 20 × 24 inch Polaroid camera. The resulting exhibition, 'In Full View: An Exhibition of 20 × 24 Polaroid Photographs’ toured Australia in 1986 and 1987. Hall went on to use the large format camera again several times, creating the series Illustrations to Dante’s Divine Comedy (1988), Historia Non-naturalis (1991) and The Price is Right (1995).
Hall spent fourth months at the Australia Council’s Greene Street Studio in Soho, New York, in 1989. Here she began work on one of her best-known artworks, Paradisus Terrestris (now in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia). The artwork explores the interrelationships between the human body and the plant world and was shown for the first time at the Art Gallery of South Australia in 1990 as a part of the Adelaide Biennial of Contemporary Art.
In 1991 Hall commenced her third artistic residency at the Philip Institute of Technology in Victoria resulting in the artwork Words , which is composed of unclothed metal figures contorted into the shape of letters, spelling out a poem inspired by T.S. Elliot.
In 1992 'The Garden of Earthly Delights: The Art of Fiona Hall’, an exhibition of Hall’s works curated by Kate Davidson, commenced at the National Gallery of Australia and went on to tour several major galleries throughout Australia.
In June of 1997 Hall received the prestigious Contempera5 Art Award at the National Gallery of Victoria and later that year spent six months at the Canberra School of Art under an Australian National University Creative Arts Fellow.
During the 1980s and early 1990s Hall’s art practice moved further away from photography towards installation art and sculpture. In 1998 Hall’s keen interest in botany saw her travel back to London to spend time studying plants at Kew Gardens as a guest of the London Visual Arts/Crafts Board studio. Hall continued her botanical studies as artist-in-residence at Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens in Brisbane; the residency formed the background to Cash Crop (1998/99), an extensive installation piece consisting of carved soaps and banknotes painted with botanical drawings of leaves. The piece explores issues of colonisation and economic activity with multiple layers of meaning.
During 1998 Hall was commissioned to create the Fern Garden at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. In 1999 she commenced an Asialink Lunugunga residency in Sri Lanka that continued until 2005. Leaf Litter (2000-02), a series of leaf images painted in gouache onto the banknotes of each leaf’s country of origin, was created during this time.
In 2000 Hall was commissioned by the City of Sydney to create the public artwork A Folly for Mrs Macquarie. Situated in the Royal Botanic Gardens, this piece explores concepts of the colonial desire to transform the exotic into the familiar. In 2005 Hall was commissioned to create a major public art work entitled Different Forms of Intelligence, located in the Samstag Museum at the University of South Australia.
In 2008 a retrospective of Hall’s work, 'Fiona Hall: Force Field’, was mounted in at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney before going on to tour New Zealand. In 2009 Hall was presented with the Premier’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the Ruby Awards – South Australia’s Arts and Cultural Awards.
Fiona Hall has created artwork and exhibited prolifically throughout her career. Her work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Bendigo Art Gallery, Bendigo; La Trobe Regional Art Gallery, Morwell; Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle; Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart; Olympic Fine Art Collection, SOCOG, Sydney.