Born in Laos, 1971, Savanhdary came to Australia in 1979. She completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the University of Western Sydney and a Masters of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales (COFA). She now lives and works in Canberra, Australia.
Savanhdary has undertaken numerous residencies in Australia and overseas including India, Japan, Laos, Scotland, Singapore and Vietnam. In 2006, she was commissioned to create a major new work for Zones of Contact, the 15th Biennale of Sydney. A finalist in the Sir John Sulman Prize 2016 and the Moet & Chandon art prize 1998. Her work is included in such important public and private collections, including Macquarie Bank, Sydney; World Bank, New York; Holmes a Court Collection, Perth; Allen Allen and Hemsley, Sydney; Artbank, Sydney; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
Savanhdary’s work has always had Lao cultural references interwoven with Australian and other cultural influences: from Australian Aboriginal art to Scottish Tartans, to Indian miniatures, and now to Japanese Buddhism. In her most recent works, she has woven and broken the Lao-Pali Sutra which looks similar to the Arabesque.
Besides using motifs and symbols from Lao textiles, for example, she has applied a technique of perforation to some works as a direct reference to the act of weaving. Spiritual references have also been important, especially the use of Lao words, texts and concepts from Theravada Buddhism, including Khathaa (Lao-Pali) protective incantations or spells. For Savanhdary, such cultural references do not constitute a fixed tradition or an objectified sense of “culture’. Rather, they stem from her experience growing up, living, and breathing in Lao cultural, familial, and religious worlds, both in Laos and Australia.
Bhud IV, 2017, acrylic on perforated canvas, 60 x 60 cm