Mixed media artist

Current exhibition

Barely Wearable

Body adornment for the age of overconsumption

Coming to Manly Art Gallery and Museum Sydney

9 December 2022 – 20 February 2023

West Esplanade, Manly, Sydney. (4 mins walk from Manly Wharf).

Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday: 10 AM – 5.00 PM. Closed Mondays and Public Holidays.

Phone: (02) 8495 5036, Email: artgallery@northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au

> See all tour dates and locations


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. Materials for the ‘wearable’ artworks have been gleaned from a diverse range of sources – from aircraft headsets to coffee capsules. Detritus from nature has also been salvaged to be re-born as a fashion statement.

> More about the ‘Barely Wearable’ exhibition

Barely Wearable Exhibition is touring NSW and Queensland


Ruth’s ‘Barely Wearable’ exhibition has been on the road for over two years. In total it will travel to eight regional galleries in Sydney, Hunter, and South Coast, New South Wales, as well as in Brisbane and regional Queensland.

> See all tour dates and locations


Ruth Keeps Calm and (Un)ruffled

COVID statement artwork is finalist in Art and Design Prize

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.

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.

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.

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