Monika Behrens and Rochelle Haley

This exhibition features a selection of works from Monika Behrens and Rochelle Haley’s collaborative painting series Bedknobs and Broomsticks (2010­–2011). The watercolours appear to be charming paintings of fantastical botanic scenes. Among the flowers are rabbits, toads, birds, mushrooms, and fruits. However, within these depictions are subtle, and occasionally blatant, depictions of glass dildos that are innately connected to the surrounding wildlife.1  

This series reflects upon the origin of the broomstick in witchcraft, its connection to sexual self-gratification, and the female orgasm. In this sense, the dildo shares connotations with witches in its taboo, hidden, and sexualised status. Behrens and Haley merge natural and simulated motifs to point towards negative overtones attached to feminine sexual power, witchcraft, and deviousness. In the artists research, they discovered a witch-hunting book titled The witch hammer (1486) that relayed occurrences of witches snatching men’s penises and hiding them in trees.2 Their historical enquiry informed depictions of plants such as ‘hemlock, fox-glove, monks-wood, mandrake, belladonna, and nightshade’ species that share connotations with sorcery and potion-making due to their apparent ‘strong hallucinatory and aphrodisiacal powers.’3

Monika Behrens and Rochelle Haley have separate artistic practices, however frequently work together on projects that consider female representation. Behrens is a contemporary still-life painter, whose subject matter often intersects with the surreal. Haley engages with performance to explore how movement and choreography reimage our understanding of painting, and the material surfaces of her works are sensory and rhythmic.

Monika Behrens (b. 1975, Melbourne, Victoria) lives and works in Sydney, New South Wales. She has a PhD of Fine Arts (2017) and Master of Fine Arts (2007) from University of New South Wales (UNSW) Art & Design, Sydney; and a Bachelor of Fine Art fom Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University, Melbourne (1998). Recent solo exhibitions include The Thinking Image, Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney (2018); Reimagining seventeenth-century Dutch still life: through a contemporary painting practice, UNSW Galleries, Sydney (2017); and The Hunting Trophy, Verge Gallery, Sydney (2016). Recent group exhibitions include Analogue, RMIT Gallery, Melbourne (2018); Fantasy, Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney (2018); and Hyperbotanica, Gallerysmith, Melbourne (2017).

Rochelle Haley (b. 1981, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory) lives and works in Sydney. She has a PhD of Fine Arts (2009) and a Bachelor of Fine Arts Honours from UNSW Art & Design, Sydney (2004); and a Bachelor of Creative Arts from the University of Wollongong, Wollongong (2002). Recent solo exhibitions include AFTERGLOW, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, Gymea (2017), and Bare Loggia, Galerie Pompom, Sydney (2017). Recent group shows include ACT Festival, The Arts and Creative Technology Center (ACT); Gwangju Bienniale (2018); DOCUMENTS, ALTERNATIVES #3, BSAD, Bath Spa University, Bath (2018); DOCUMENTS, ALTERNATIVES #2, Verge Gallery, University of Sydney (2018); re-pair, UNSW Art & Design Black Box, Sydney (2017); and Golden Hour ArtBar, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney (2016).

Behrens and Haley have exhibited collaborative work in Bedknobs and Broomsticks at MOP, Sydney (2011), and have collaborated on projects such as Pleasure Garden, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2010), and Pudu Prison, Runway, 15: Lies (2009): 54–59.

  1. Jess De La Hunty, “Bedknobs & Broomsticks,” ArtWrite 45 (2011): 34–36,
  2. Prue Gibson, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, (Sydney: MOP Projects, 2011),
  3. De La Hunty, “Bedknobs & Broomsticks,” 35.

Monika Behrens and Rochelle Haley
Witch’s Hammer 2011
Watercolour on paper
46 x 64 cm
Alex and Kitty Mackay Collection