Three women, each approximately two-and-a-half metres tall, are arranged in a way that speaks of ritual. They communicate immense power – the first woman is frozen in a state of convulsion, the second woman newly brought to life, and the third is both participant and observer, taking in the spectacle. To behold them is to feel an unmistakeable sense of dread, and there is perhaps no better word to describe them than ‘arresting’. These three women make up Kristian Burford’s installation Cell, created for the 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art.

“Kristian is very interested in trying to articulate the idea that we are never really present in ourselves,” says Erica Green, curator of the Biennial. “And that we don’t really understand ourselves and that we are never fully conscious of what reality is.”

This sense of alienation, and of grappling with our own perceptions of the world, is something that Green is very much interested in. Titling this year’s exhibition Divided Worlds, she explicitly positions art as a touchstone in times of turmoil.

“As human beings we’ve participated in art since early cavemen times, and it has been a companion to us,” she explains. “In many ways, you could argue that...