Anne Noble / Aotearoa New Zealand b.1954 / Dead Bee Portrait #14 (detail) 2015–16 / Pigment on paper / 91.5 x 115cm / © The artist / Image courtesy: The artist and Two Rooms Gallery, Auckland

Anne Noble
Dead Bee Portrait #14 2015–2016

On Display: GOMA, Gallery 3.5

Anne Noble’s project for APT9 celebrates the importance of the bee in our lives. The project is made up of a working hive of European honeybees, a series of photographs and a video. Noble worked with scientists from the Queensland Brain Institute to design the hive and its transparent passage to the outside world, which allows the bees to enter their hive inside the Gallery. The hive is opened several times a day so that visitors can observe the growing bee community.

A series of Dead bee portraits 2015–16 is also on display. Images of dead bees have been scanned under an electron microscope, and the data turned into photographs. Also included is a video work called Reverie 2016 that creates a dreamlike environment inspired by the sounds and smells of a beehive.

The artist wants her project to spark new conversations about the important role of bees in our world.

New Zealand artist Anne Noble has been a practising photographer since the 1970s. Her varied subjects have included a London convent, the Antarctic wilderness, coastal landscapes of New Zealand, and her father’s body after death. Noble builds a picture through series of images, creating depth and intimacy in what she refers to as ‘essays’ of photographic images.

Anne Noble’s practice encourages viewers to spend time engaged in the act of looking. In recent years, she has turned her attention to the subject of the honey bee, a small creature symbolic of our world’s wellbeing. The artist’s interest in bees was sparked by keeping her own beehives at her home in New Zealand.


What threats are faced by the honey bee? How would global ecosystems be affected if the honey bee became extinct?

Research the similarities and differences between European honey bees and native Australian stingless bees.

Use microscopes to observe the textures and patterns of winged insects.

During your visit to APT9

Find Anne Noble’s Conversatio: A cabinet of wonder. Describe what you see, hear, smell and feel.

Follow the path of one bee — draw a line to represent the bee’s movement. Where does it start its journey?

Discuss how the artist connects art and science in her project.


  • the soundscape of Jonathan Jones’s artwork with the sound of the bees in Anne Noble’s Conversatio: A cabinet of wonder and Reverie. How does sound add meaning to the artworks?
  • Anne Noble’s images of dead bees with Nona Garcia’s X-rays of animal bones.


Isolate and record a variety of sounds from different environments. Mix the recordings to create a soundscape. Add your soundscape to a video or animation to explore the theme of movement.

Photograph micro-environments by exploring the macro setting on a camera. Experiment with digital manipulation to add mood to your photographs (for example, change colours, play with scale, use transparent layers).

Contemporary context

How does Anne Noble:

  • use materials, technologies or approaches to affect the audience experience?
  • employ imagery and/or display techniques to challenge aesthetic traditions?
  • provoke discussion about twenty-first-century issues and concerns?

Personal context

How does Anne Noble:

  • generate ideas from her own experiences, imagination or memories?
  • create sensory experiences to generate emotional responses from the viewer?
  • connect with the viewers’ experiences and/or expectations to construct meaning?

Cultural context

How does Anne Noble:

  • reflect community interests through social commentary?

Formal context

How does Anne Noble:

  • employ specific art elements and principles to communicate meaning?
  • enhance the interpretation of the artwork through processes, materials and media?
  • share characteristics with art movements, times, places or events?