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Elizabeth Willing

Roost: Judy Wheeler Commission


Elizabeth Willing, Roost, 2023, installation view, Judy Wheeler Commission, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA), 2023, photo: Dan McCabe


Elizabeth Willing, Roost, (detail), 2023, Judy Wheeler Commission,  Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA), 2023, photo: Dan McCabe

Elizabeth Willing Open Studio, QAGOMA, 2022, photo: Chloë Callistemon, QAGOMA.

Food is both material and inspiration for Meanjin (Brisbane) based artist and recipient of the inaugural Judy Wheeler Commission Elizabeth Willing. Working across mediums, Willing explores the role of food in our daily lives, creating works that engage audiences through sight, smell, taste, and touch.

In her new commission, Roost, Willing responds to the architecture of the building’s entrance. In the bending and twisting forms of PICA’s wrought iron gates, Willing sees a filtration system, a threshold that visitors pass through to take in and digest uncommon experiences. Willing’s reimagining of the gates appears as a central motif in a hand-printed and embroidered linen, created for the soaring vertical space of the stairwell, spilling over into a wallpaper in PICA’s entry foyer.

Willing has hand-printed the unstretched linen canvas using kipfler potatoes, a signature material of her practice. Printed in a deep brick red, the organic, jostling forms are suggestive of yeast, bacteria, or body cells viewed under a microscope. Linen is a material associated with hosting and domesticity, while the activity of potato printing recalls childhood crafts and the history of the PICA building as a school. Lining the edges of the linen in embroidered text, Willing presents us with a series of words associated with smells she experienced across Perth, with the artwork’s title, Roost, a specific reference to a scent encountered behind the PICA building.

Evoking a wide array of experiences, perceptions, and reactions, each detail of Roost tells a piece of a larger story, unfolding into a broader consideration of the rituals and experiences of hospitality, the materiality of food and its relationship with our bodies, and the many varied tastes (and smells) of our city.

Read the exhibition text.

About the Commission

The Judy Wheeler Commission is a 10-year site-specific commissioning program in memory of the late Judy Wheeler. A significant gift of $300,000, the largest in PICA’s history, funds an annual commission of a site-specific work by an Australian based visual artist that responds physically or conceptually to the architecture and history of the PICA building and its site, and embodies PICA’s spirit of risk and experimentation.

Through the Commission, PICA’s ambition will activate spaces that visitors enter and move through when they visit the PICA building, including its entrance lobby, foyer and stairwells. Each commission will be installed for up to a one-year period, commencing February 2023.

The Commission is open annually to all Australian-based visual artists, at any stage of their career and whose mediums might include, but not be limited to, painting, sculpture, sound and video

Apply for the 2024 Judy Wheeler Commission

About Judy Wheeler

Judy Wheeler was born in 1954 and grew up in Gosford, New South Wales. She spent a year at the National Institute of Dramatic Art, obtained a teaching diploma at Sydney Teachers College, and a BA from Flinders University. She later worked as a town councillor and a bookshop owner. Throughout her life she was an enduring lover and supporter of the arts. For several years she funded Western Australia’s T.A.G. Hungerford literary award, and through her patronage of the visual arts she amassed a substantial collection of Australian prints and paintings. She passed away in 2010 after a long illness. She is survived by her husband Jamie Simpson and her children Tom and Genevieve.

About the Artist

Elizabeth Willing is a Brisbane-based visual artist whose works are performative and often participatory explorations of food and hosting. Primarily working in sculpture, installation, and performance, Willing’s work additionally takes the form of concept dinners, collaborative performances that use the dining table as stage for interactive designs and experiences. 

Willing has undertaken professional development mentorships in New York with Janine Antoni (2011), with the Experimental Food Society in London (2012) and then with Thomas Rentmeister in Berlin (2014). In 2019 she completed a Masters of Fine Art (research) at Queensland University of Technology.

In 2014 Willing was the recipient of the Australia Council Kunstlerhaus Bethanien one-year residency. Furthermore, Willing has undertaken residencies at Helsinki International Art Program HIAP (2015), New England Regional art Museum Armidale (2018), The Australian Wine Research Institute in Adelaide (2019), Museum of Brisbane (2020), and Metro Arts (2022). Exhibitions and concept meals have been held in Australia and overseas at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, Kunstlerhaus Bethanien Berlin, Trapholt Museum of Art and Design Denmark, Tinguely Museum Basel, and Gallery of Modern Art Brisbane. Elizabeth Willing is represented by Tolarno Galleries Melbourne.


The Judy Wheeler Commission is supported by the Simpson Family.