Historical information

Penelope Aitken lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. She makes paintings and installations about relationships: between people, between things and between people and things. Recurring subjects include friendship, genealogy, romantic liaisons, and cross-cultural exchange as well as gardening, craft and landscape design.

'I am interested in the social, psychological and aesthetic motives behind organisation, belonging and displacement and I often make work that investigates such arrangements.'

She has held regular solo exhibitions since 1995 and has been represented in group exhibitions since 1989. These have included shows in public and commercial galleries, artist run spaces, outdoor projects and festivals in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Bundaberg, Kuala Lumpur, Taipei, Tokyo and Famagusta, Northern Cyprus.

Aitken has previously worked at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and at Asialink at the University of Melbourne. From 2006 - 2009 she was a board member of the Melbourne artist run gallery, West Space and she has also curated and coordinated numerous exhibitions and written and edited catalogues, articles and essays.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Education (Visual Arts) both from The University of Melbourne and completed her Masters of Fine Art at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2004.

In 1997 Aitken was selected to be a studio artist for two years at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne and in 2000 she undertook an Australia Council Studio at the Taipei National University of the Arts, Taiwan.

More recently she spent two months in 2007 at the Laughing Waters Residency, Birrarung, in Eltham, Victoria. There she began her current interest in the rocks used in the landscape designs of Gordon Ford. Paintings of Ford's rocks made since 2007 as well as glacial erratics, meteors, and other natural and displaced rocks were exhibited in March 2011 at the Light Factory Gallery in Eltham in a show called My History of here, and Second Nature, one work from this exhibition, was awarded first prize at Eltham Masterworks 2011.

Other work made about rocks in nature and culture include: the project, A dark archive, as well as in two installations: You seem so settled for one that doesn't belong held at West Space in 2009 and Gathering these things to remind me of home shown in 2010 at the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery, Queensland.


In July and August 2007 Aitken undertook an arts recidency at Birrarung, a house and garden designed by Gordon Ford and managed as the Laughing Waters Artist in Residence Program by the Shire of Nillumbik Victoria. The rocks depicted in the painting 'Mapping Mass & Void 10' are all taken from the garden at Birrarung. Aitken has made reference to those rocks and the way in which Ford thought of the rocks as individuals that need to be handled and placed with consideration to show off their best aspects.

Physical description

oil and acrylic on linen