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Simryn Gill was born in 1959 in Singapore, raised in Malaysia, and educated in India and the United Kingdom. She works in sculpture, photography, drawing, and writing. She is a systematic collector, especially of books as objects of reverence and dispute. Several of her projects involve erasing or excising the printed word in a microcosmic struggle with authority as embodied by canonical texts. In Pearls (2000– ), for example, she turns beloved volumes into paper pulp beads. Gill is a tinkerer, altering mundane objects and sites via poetically critical sleight of hand. She aggregates her modest interventions into encyclopedic series comprised of dozens of components, in which the smallest gestures—repeated or expanded—generate resounding statements.
For Roadkill (1999–2000), Gill collected hundreds of pieces of motor vehicle-flattened detritus—including bottle tops, cigarette packs, combs, plastic cutlery, and tin cans—and attached toy wheels to each one. She then arranged them on the floor in a swarming unidirectional traffic pattern. In Throwback (2007), Gill uses natural materials to recreate the internal systems of a Tata truck, a vehicle ubiquitous in Malaysia and India. She utilized termite mound soil, river clay, banana skins, mangosteen peels, bodhi leaves, coconut bark, areca nut casings, and lalang grass, among other things, to cast the individual parts, which were then arranged as an inventory. In the photographic series My Own Private Angkor (2007–09), Gill memorialized the derelict interiors of a decades-old abandoned housing complex on the Malaysian coast. Captured in long-exposure black-and-white, these images are both documents and objects in themselves, as light, dust, reflections, and shadows are rendered as tangible as the crumbling buildings.
Gill has had numerous solo exhibitions, including shows at Galeri Petronas, Kuala Lumpur (2001); Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2002); Berkeley Art Museum, California (2004); Tate Modern, London (2006); Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian, Washington, D.C. (2006); Tracy Williams, New York (2006, 2009, 2010, and 2012); Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2008); Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai (2009); Center for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne (2009); Breenspace, Sydney (2009 and 2012); Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2010); and AnnaElle Gallery, Stockholm (2012). She participated in the two-person exhibition Your place or mine? Fiona Foley and Simryn Gill at the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane. Notable group exhibitions include the Singapore Biennial (2006), Documenta 12 and 13 (2007 and 2012), and 12th Istanbul Biennial (2011). She will represent Australia at the 2013 Venice Biennale. Gill lives and works in Sydney and Port Dickson, Malaysia.