Born in Sydney into a family steeped in the Sciences (her father a biochemist, her mother a biologist and artist) it was only natural that Jenny Pollak and her siblings would grow up with a fascination for the natural world and a matter of course that they would keep animals in the bath – all sorts of aquatic pets, from crayfish to axolotls, many of them preserved after their death in ethanol and lining the walls of her cubby, nurturing in Jenny a continuing fascination for glass vessels and the mysterious and shadowy worlds contained within them.
Most weekends were spent exploring the natural environment or making things. Her parents nurtured in Jenny and her siblings a love of art, music, and literature, as well as for the environment. Jenny found the natural world more interesting than school and with her twin sister Ana brought that world inside – insects secreted into matchboxes and furtively passed around the classroom until one enlightened teacher thought to make it part of the curriculum.
As soon as she was old enough Jenny tried to leave school. Too young at 15 to be eligible for the TAFE Certificate Art Course, she applied unsuccessfully for a job as cadet photographer at the Australian Museum and had to return to school. On leaving school at 17 she accompanied her twin sister and parents to London where she studied etching at the Byam Shaw School of Painting and Drawing. Returning to Sydney a year later she attended classes at various technical Colleges in Sydney where she studied life drawing, printmaking, and photography, while independently pursuing her interest in etching.
Her twenties were divided between her passion for music and art and she spent them making three trips to Italy (where she studied and subsequently taught photo-etching at a printmaking studio in Tuscany), and performing around Sydney and NSW with various bands as flautist and percussionist, including many concerts as support band to visiting overseas groups such as Inti-illimani, Illapu and the Bhundu Boys. She participated in countless solidarity gigs for the Latin American community, a series of midnight gigs in Kings Cross with Okapi Guitar Band (as their conga player), a trip around Australia with the multi-cultural band Seaweed and Wire, and a concert tour to Chile, Argentina and Uruguay with the Latin band Tumbale, where she played flute and congas and fell in love with the cuatro, a small Venezuelan stringed instrument. Her musical career culminated in a performance with the Latin band Telares at the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Sydney, 2000.
In 1989 Jenny met the Mexican photographer Luis Vidal and in 1990 Luis emigrated to Australia so that they could be together. Jenny and Luis shared their life together for six years, holding many joint exhibitions of their work, before Luis’ long battle with multiple sclerosis finally took its toll and he was admitted to a nursing home. Despite their being separated by his illness they continued to show their work and Jenny put together a book of their photographs and letters which was exhibited in Australia and in New York. Jenny and Luis continued to share as much as they could until his death in 2007.
In the last 10 years Jenny has focused her arts practice in sculpture and photography, holding various exhibitions in Sydney and regional galleries in NSW and QLD, and pursuing her interest in the microscopic world with a two year residency at the Electron Microscope Unit at Sydney University.
In 2009 she received an Australia Council New Work Grant which allowed her to focus on an Artist in Residency at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney.
Since 2012 Jenny has been writing poetry and in the last couple of years she has been working with video installation. Alongside her arts practice poetry has become her main area of focus.
ONE PERSON AND TWO PERSON SHOWS
2015: Manly Art Gallery & Museum, Sydney: Multi media installation (video, sculpture, poetry).
2011: Depot II Gallery, Dank St, Sydney: Digital photographs, installation.
2010: Palm House, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney: Work on paper, video installation.
2010: Red Box Gallery, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney: Work on paper, installation, sculpture.
2008: Macleay Museum, Sydney: Electron Micrographs, powerpoint installation.
2007: Sara Roney Gallery, Sydney: Photographs.
2007: Macleay Museum, Sydney : Electron Micrographs and computer generated images.
2005: Manning Regional Art Gallery, NSW: Electron micrographs and sculptures.
2004: Noosa Regional Gallery QLD: Photographs and text.
2002: Amelie Wallace Gallery, New York: Photographs and text.
2001: Ewart Gallery, Sydney: Photographs and text.
2000: Customs House, Sydney: Sculptures, prints and photographs.
1999: Ewart Gallery, Sydney: Sculptures.
1997: Ewart Gallery, Sydney: Sculptures, prints and drawings.
1991: Ewart Gallery, Sydney: Photographs.
1990: Chapter Hall Museum, Sydney: Photographs.
2016: Stanley Street Gallery, Sydney (Borne)
2016: Black Box Theatre, Nambour, QLD (Dangerous Song)
2013: Willoughby Art Prize, Sydney (Connextion points)
2011/12/13: Powerhouse Museum Sydney (Lovelace)
2012: Macleay Museum, Sydney (Coral: Art Science Life)
2012: Incinerator Art Space Sydney (Paper Now)
2011/12: Waterhouse Art Prize South Australian Museum, Adelaide
2011: Hazelhurst Art Award Hazelhurst, NSW
2011: Hutchins Art Prize Hobart
2008: Art Gallery of NSW (Dobell Prize for Drawing)
2008: Hawkesbury Regional Gallery Windsor (Downstream)
2000-07: Representing Australia in a Global Collection of Art (Women of the World ) Touring internationally.
1997: Sculpture by the Sea Sydney.
1989: Cultural Centre, Santo Domingo Mexico City.
1986: Studio Camnitzer 10th Anniversary Show, New York.
1980 – 85: Sydney Printmakers
2012–14: Various poetry workshops (Mark Tredinnick, Judith Beveridge, Martin Langford, and Deb Westbury)
1985-88: Studied congas with Aziz N’Diaye
1983: Photo-etching summer school, Studio Camnitzer, Valdottavo, Italy
1977-79: Part time studies in life drawing, printmaking and photography, Hornsby, Randwick and East Sydney Technical Colleges
1976: Studied etching at the Byam Shaw School of Painting and Drawing, London
2012: Winner of the People’s Choice Award, Love Lace – Powerhouse Museum, Sydney(sculptural installation)
2011: Winner of the Facade Project, national public art award – Visual Arts Centre, La Trobe University, Bendigo (photography)
2005: 1st Prize Sculpture Section, Hunters Hill Art Prize, Sydney
2003: 1st Prize Sculpture Section, Walkom Manning Art Prize, NSW
1997: 1st Prize Sculpture Section, Hunters Hill Art Prize, Sydney
93,94,96: 1st Prize Sculpture Section, Fairfield City Festival of the Arts, Sydney
1993: 1st Prize for Printmaking, Mosman Art Prize
1985: 1st Prize for Photography, Willoughby Art Prize, Sydney
1980: Graphic Prize for Youth, Bologna Book Fair (illustrated children’s book Australian Mammals)
PRIZES AND COMMENDATIONS (POETRY)
2016: 1st Prize, Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize
2016: 1st and 2nd Prize, Yeats Poetry Prize of Australia
2016: Shortlisted World Wetlands Day Poetry Prize, Tasmania
2016: Shortlisted O’Bheal Poetry Prize, Ireland
2014: Highly commended in the Adrien Abbott Prize (Poetry)
2014: Shortlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize, Ireland
2014: Commended in the Deakin Leadership Centre Poetry Competition
2013: 3rd Prize, Australian Catholic University Literature Award (Poetry)
2013: 4th place in the International Welsh Poetry Competition
2013: Shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize, UK
2013: Commended in the Glen Phillips Poetry Prize, WA
RESIDENCIES AND GRANTS
2016: Artist in Residence, BigCi, Bilpin, NSW
2009: Artist in Residence, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney
2009: New Work Grant, Australia Council
2006: Artist in Residence, Upper Landsdowne, Manning District, NSW
2005/06: Artist in Residence, Electron Microscope Unit, Sydney University
2002: Skills and Arts Development Grant, Australia Council
2011: New World Order – Terra Australis – ceramic sculpture, National Museum, Canberra
2008/09/11: Various workshops at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
1999 – 2002: Sculpture teacher at the Workshop Arts Centre, Sydney
1984 – 86: Technical assistant at Studio Camnitzer, Valdottavo, Italy
1980 – 86: Etching teacher at the Workshop Arts Centre, Sydney
Peace, Tolerance & Understanding: Chapbook from the ACU Literature Award 2015
Ebook anthology: Poems to talk about, Warming Bees (Poetic Republic 2015)
Australian Artists in the Contemporary Museum (Jennifer Barret and Jacqueline Millner) 2014
The Language of Compassion: Chapbook from the ACU Literature award 2014
Australian Love Poems 2013 (Inkermann & Blunt)
A Sudden Presence: Chapbook from the ACU Literature Award 2013
Make Lace Not War – Powerhouse Museum International Lace Award catalogue 2011
2005-07: Volunteer work in the Department of Marine Invertebrates, Australian Museum, Sydney
2000: Paralympic Games opening ceremony (flute, congas, cuatro and backing vocals) with Telares
1999: Recorded the CD Contemporary Latin Song with Telares
1988: Performed in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay with Tumbale
1987: Toured Australia with the multicultural band Seaweed and Wire
1985 – 2002: Flautist, percussionist and backing vocalist with the Latin American Bands Tumbale, Cumana and Telares and the African Group Okapi Guitar Band
1980: Illustrated and wrote the children’s book Australian Mammals (William Collins)