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The Australian National University

Denise Ferris

Head of School
Phone: +61 (2) 6125 5805

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Denise Ferris has been Head of the School of Art since 2013, where she has lectured in photography since 1987. Ferris is a photographer who uses UV processes and inkjet technologies, exploring the photograph as a non-documentary a-historical archive. For her doctorate, awarded in 2007, Ferris used a unique light-sensitive milk emulsion, a mixture of casein and dichromates, to make photographs visualising maternal ambivalence and duality. She has published scholarly work on representations of the maternal, along with numerous conference presentations and catalogue essays.Ferris has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Australia and Asia. Her works in major public collections in Australia, including the Australian War Memorial, National Gallery and National Library, as well as overseas institutions. Her current interests have turned towards landscape and the elements, in photographs exploring transitory phenomena such as weather, locality and historical memory.As Head of the School, Ferris has a strong interest in tertiary education policy and administration, having served as an Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Social Sciences, as well as on arts sector boards.

Full Biography

Denise Ferris is an artist who has lectured in Photography at the School of Art since 1987. In 2007 Ferris completed a doctorate in Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Technology, Sydney. Her exegesis ‘Spoilt Milk: Photography, Recollection and Constructing the Maternal’ investigated maternal representations in innovative depictions of the maternal's ambivalence and contradictions in her milk prints. The thesis also examined the issues surrounding a ‘maternal genealogy’, the lineage of mothers in fine art photographing their children and the issues surrounding consumption of these photographs, made for both private recollection and for viewing in public.

Ferris has consistently worked with new processes as well as street photography, exhibiting the inkjet series weather report in 2006. She has presented her work in 13 solo exhibitions since 1994, as well as in numerous group exhibitions in Australia, Europe and Asia. Ferris' photographs are held in Australian public collections including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Library of Australia, the Australian War Memorial, and Canberra Museum and Gallery as well as international collections including the District Six Museum, Cape Town and Nara City, Japan.


Solo exhibitions

2013 Once Upon and Island of White,

2012 Celestial Spaces, Pingyao International Photography Festival, China & Kiandra, NSW

2011 Vestment, Pingyao International Photography Festival, China

2006 weather report, Helen Maxwell Gallery, Braddon, Canberra

2004 Studio Schloss, Haldenstein, Graubunden, Switzerland

2003 Home Decorum New Work, UTS Gallery, Sydney

2003 Notes from a Watershed, Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town

2001 Home Decorum, Cube installation, Canberra Contemporary Artspace

1999 isthmus, Raglan Gallery, Cooma

1998 Given Grace, Canberra Contemporary Artspace, Manuka

1997 evidence and absence, Strathnairn Gallery, Holt, Canberra

1996 homeground, Raglan Gallery, Cooma

1994 One Hundred Views of Kosciusko, Thredbo Alpine Hotel

Group exhibitions (selected)

2013 Lens Love, Canberra Museum and Gallery

On This Site, Kaori Gallery, Canberra 

2012 Things: Photographing the constructed world, National Library of Australia


2011 Ulrick Schubert Photographic Art Award, Gold Coast City Art Gallery

Staring into Space, M16, Canberra

2010  embody-meant, Flinders University City Gallery, Adelaide

The Long Hot Summer,

2009 Artwork, staff exhibition, School of Art Gallery, ANU

2008 Contemporary Landscapes in Photography, Perth Centre for Photography

Parade: Manufacturing Selves in Photography, School of Art, ANU

The Fall of The Night, Helen Maxwell Gallery, Braddon

Photo/Not Photo, University of Canberra Gallery

The Country Show, Foyer Gallery, School of Art, ANU

Collection Series: Photography, Canberra Museum and Gallery

2007 Myself by Myself, Helen Maxwell Gallery, Braddon, Canberra

2006 Centre for Contemporary Photography, Print Drawer, Melbourne

Maternal Metaphors, Ohio State University, Ohio, USA

2005 National Photographic Purchase Award, Albury Regional Gallery

2004 Surface Indicators, School of Art Gallery, ANU

2003 National Photographic Purchase Award, Albury Regional Gallery

2002 breathless, School of Art Gallery, Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand

2001 National Photographic Purchase Award, Albury Regional Gallery

Madonna, Foyer Gallery, NITA, ANU; Spiral Arm, Kingston

Showcase Jubilee Exhibition, School of Art Gallery, NITA, ANU

Hostage to Fortune, Tuggeranong Art Centre

2000 Swan Hill Print Award, Swan Hill Regional Gallery

1999 Josephine Ulrick Photography Prize, Tweed River Gallery

1998 Labours of Love, Trades and Labour Council, Canberra

Geelong Print Prize, Geelong Art Gallery

Bathurst Print Awards, Bathurst Regional Art Gallery

Nara/Canberra Celebrations, Nara, Japan

Coomafest, Westpac Bank, Cooma

Muswellbrook Photographic Prize, Muswellbrook

1997 NPWS/Snowy Mountains Regional Visitors Centre

RECORD, Photospace, Canberra School of Art

Muswellbrook Photographic Prize, Muswellbrook

Still Life and Art in a Window, Cooma

1996 Labours of Love, Trades and Labour Council, Canberra

Muswellbrook Photographic Prize, Muswellbrook

How Bazaar, Jindabyne

1995 Botanica Exotica, Loegoss Gallery, Cooma

Miniatures, Raglan Gallery, Cooma

1994 Postcodes, Arts Council of NSW touring exhibition

1993 Pants Off, Hands On, Canberra Contemporary Art Space

Exhibitions curated

2012 Roadworks, Pingyao International Photography Festival, China

2010 ANU Graduate Exhibition, Pingyao International Photography Festival, China

2010 Costume, installation School of Art collection cabinets, ANU

2001 Hostage to Fortune, Tuggeranong Arts Centre, Canberra

The Wild Sheep Chase, co-curator Patsy Payne, School of Art Gallery, ANU


2007 Doctor of Creative Arts (Research), Humanities & Social Sciences, UTS, Sydney

1985 Graduate Diploma, Visual Arts, Sydney College of the Arts

1983 Bachelor of Visual Arts, Sydney College of the Arts


Chapters in Books

‘Spoilt Milk: Ambivalence and the Language of Casein’ in Reconciling Art and Mothering, Rachel Epp Buller (ed.), Ashgate, Farnham, 2012

‘Home Decorum’ in The M Word, Real Mothers in Contemporary Art, Myrel Chernick and Jennie Klien (eds), Demeter Press, Toronto, 2011

‘The Dilemma of Depicting Desire: Maternal Secret or Public Censure’ in Illuminating the Dark Side: Evil, Women and the Feminine, Andrea Ruthven & Gabriela Mádlo (eds), Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2010

‘The Mother in Mr Chips: Educating Artists and Maternal Thinking’ in Maternal Thinking Philosophy, Politics, Practice Dr Andrea O'Reilly (ed.), Demeter Press, Toronto, October 2009


Albury Regional Art Centre, Albury

Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Canberra Museum and Gallery

District 6 Museum, Cape Town

Lake Crackenback Resort, Jindabyne

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

National Library of Australia, Canberra

Nara City, Japan, presented by ACT Govt

National Parks and Wildlife Service, Jindabyne

Print Council of Australia, Melbourne

Schloss Haldenstein, Graubünden, Switzerland

UTS Art Collection, Sydney

Updated: 28 January 2016/ Responsible Officer:  Head of Office / Page Contact:  Web Publisher