Mixed media artist

Ruth Keeps Calm and (Un)ruffled

COVID delays her current tour but the artwork carries on

Ruth Downes wearing ‘Masking the Problem’, a new ‘Barely Wearable’-inspired creation. (Photo: James Brickwood)

As a finalist for inaugural Northern Beaches Environmental Art and Design Prize, Ruth Downes was interviewed by journalist Julie Power for a Sydney Morning Herald article about how the pandemic had “infected” artists’ work across Australia.

Ruth’s fragile neckpiece, a kind of Elizabethan ruffle, is made of 24 face masks. Entitled ‘Masking the Problem’, it includes matching earrings made from mask cords. Like many works in her currently touring Barely Wearable Exhibition, it illustrates the impact of single-use items on the environment.

She is the first of several artists interviewed, who are trying to make sense of and respond to the challenge of COVID 19 epidemic in their work.

Current exhibition – on tour

Note: Planned exhibition dates may be affected by COVID restrictions. Please check to ensure that the galleries are open.

Barely Wearable

Body adornment for the age of overconsumption

Ruth Downes reappropriates everyday materials and objects to celebrate their intrinsic beauty. All thirty 3D works are made from the repurposing of a broad range of materials with a touch of humour.

> More about the ‘Barely Wearable’ exhibition

Touring NSW and Queensland

Over the next three years Ruth’s ‘Barely Wearable’ exhibition is on the road. It can be seen in eight regional galleries in Sydney, Hunter and South Coast NSW, as well as in Brisbane and regional Queensland.

> See all tour dates and locations

Barely Wearable will be at

Hurstville Museum and Gallery, Sydney

5 February – 24 April, 2022

14 Macmahon St, Hurstville, Sydney

Phone 9330 6444; Email: museumgallery@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au

Opening times:

Tuesday – Friday: 10.00am – 4.00pm

Saturday: 10.00am – 2.00pm

Sunday: 2.00pm – 5.00pm

> See all tour dates and locations

About Ruth Downes

Ruth Downes’ portfolio of artwork has ranged from intimate, mixed-media gallery exhibitions to large scale, site-specific public artworks. In her hand-crafted public gallery exhibitions she has evolved materials into a new life with underlying humour and word play.

Her Public art – Commissions projects are also diverse in materials but focused on visual enjoyment and longevity in the outdoor environment.  

 > See Ruth’s CV.

Other projects

Tea party in the Mayoral Garden

Ruth discovers a Mintie wrapper from Mintea
A tax gets its own beverage in GSTea

Forty tea cups and saucers are displayed together as a ‘tea partea’ in this mixed-media artwork. Each handcrafted piece has a name and personality that reflects the diverse characters mingling at this public event.  It won the People’s Choice Award at the National Sculpture Prize at the NGA.  > More about the Tea Party in the Mayoral Garden

Also view > Tea cup sculptures > ‘Tea party’ exhibitions > In the media

Lunch for the Trades

Full trays in a cafeteria carry the tradies’ lunches

A mechanic’s meal on the menu is a metal minestrone

An amusing cafeteria style spread of obsessively crafted meals made from the materials and/or tools of each trade, celebrating the often neglected work of the trades while playing with the language of modern cuisine.  > More about Lunch for the Trades

Also view > Lunch tray sculptures > ‘Lunch for the trades’ exhibitions > In the media

Public art – Commissions

In a number of public spaces, Ruth has created relevant, site-specific artwork in a wide range of materials and sizes.

View > Public art projects


CASTING AROUND – 30 fishing rods and holders, Bondi, Sydney.
A FINE KETTLE OF FISH – Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, Sydney

Away from the constraints of commissions, Ruth enjoyed great success with sculptural installations, both solo and in partnership with Geoff Webster.

View > Sculpture