Born in Sydney into a family steeped in the Sciences (her father a Biochemist, her mother a Biologist) it was quite natural that Jenny Pollak and her siblings grew up with a fascination for the natural world. It seemed a matter of course that they would keep animals in the bath, as well as in various aquariums—all sorts of aquatic pets, from crustaceans to amphibians, that were preserved after their death in ethanol, 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 the classroom and with her twin sister Ana brought that world into the classroom—insects secreted into matchboxes and furtively passed around, 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 ‘vocation’ as an etcher.
Her twenties and thirties 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 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 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 pursue her Artist in Residency at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney.
Jenny is currently focusing her arts practice in photography and installation sculpture, and has recently begun to write poetry inspired by place.
ONE PERSON AND TWO PERSON SHOWS
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.
2012: Waterhouse Art Prize, South Australian Museum, Adelaide
2012: Macleay Museum, Sydney (Coral: Art Science Life)
2012: Incinerator Art Space Sydney (Paper Now)
2011/12: Powerhouse Museum Sydney (Lovelace)
2011: 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
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: People’s Choice Award, Love Lace – Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.
2011: Winner of the Facade Project, national public art award – Visual Arts Centre, La Trobe University, Bendigo.
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).
RESIDENCIES AND GRANTS
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.
2005-07: Volunteer work in the Department of Marine Invertebrates, Australian Museum, Sydney.
2000: Performed at the Paralympic Games opening ceremony 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).