Sriwhana Spong <em>a hook but no fish</em> 2017, film still. Courtesy of the artist and Michael Lett

Sriwhana Spong a hook but no fish 2017, film still. Courtesy of the artist and Michael Lett


12 May — 22 Jul 2018

Sriwhana Spong: a hook but no fish

This exhibition follows the artist’s research into the Lingua Ignota, a language invented by 12th-century mystic Hildegard von Bingen during her 39 years at Disibodenberg monastery, Germany. Supposedly received by Hildegard through divine inspiration, the Lingua Ignota is thought to have been a secret language used to increase solidarity amongst Hildegard’s fellow sisters.


Sriwhana Spong, who is based in London, is the 2018 Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Aotearoa New Zealand Artist in Residence.

Curated by Tendai John Mutambu

The residency is supported by Creative New Zealand Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa


Sriwhana Spong: a hook but no fish
Audio Radio NZ - Standing Room Only - Sriwhana Spong

New Zealand/Balinese artist Sriwhana Spong's new exhibition in New Plymouth explores a unique language used by a medieval female German mystic and abbess, Hildegard von Bingen. She's added some new elements to the show a hook but no fish, during her time as the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery's 2018 artist in residence since it was first shown in London earlier this year.

Central to the exhibition is a new film partially shot at the site of the monastery where an 8-year-old Hildegard was interned with two other women. Spong also presents a musical bell plate influenced by Balinese Gamelan tradition, highlighting how sound can often be a unique indicator of place, history and custom. Elsewhere, a series of ‘sigils’ – painted symbols considered to have magical powers – spell out the name of a critically endangered bird endemic to the island of Bali.

a hook but no fish includes works shown in Spong’s exhibition at London’s Pump House Gallery (10 Jan – 1 Apr) along with several new pieces, which the artist created while on a two-month residency at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth.

In this Ocula article, Sriwhana Spong speaks to the curator of her show at the Govett-Brewster, Tendai John Mutambu, about working across film, painting, performance and sculpture to consider the relationship between the body, language and sound, as inspired by the practices of medieval women mystics.