The launch of two free exhibitions kicked off a new three-month-long arts festival in Canberra on Friday 20 November, presented by Kambri at ANU and curated by aMBUSH Gallery.
The festival, HERE I AM: Art By Great Women, will showcase the work of a long, diverse list of female-identifying Australian creatives, in partnership with the National Gallery of Australia’s current exhibition, Know My Name.
Both events are the result of an international movement that began in Washington in 2016 to give greater prominence to women artists.
Awarded Wiradyuri conceptual artist, Amala Groom, will show The Union, an experimental 11-minute video and the first Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander piece to be acquired by the Deutsche Bank Collection, which holds the work of over 5,000 artists from around the world.
Groom says her art is a performance of cultural sovereignty, as she unpacks the philosophy of colonialism and puts forward an argument that colonialism is antithetical to the human experience.
“My intention is to make work that speaks to the union of all people and indivisibility of the human experience that traverses identity, culture, race, class, gender and religious worship,” she says.
“We have more in common than we have in difference.”
Using video performance as a medium allows Groom to create an intimate form of live portraiture that stretches notions of linear time; however, her work isn’t limited to one medium and content always dictates form.
“If you look at my body of work, I’ve made a lot of hard hitting politically and edgy work,” she says.
“I’m still doing that but I’m using a different kind of visual language, appealing to senses more than intellect.”
While Groom celebrates the importance of exhibitions like HERE I AM and Know My Name, she points out the Australian art world is slow to make progress when it comes to acquiring and exhibiting the work of First Nations female-identifying artists.
“I was sitting here thinking about it the other day. I’m so thrilled it’s happening but then, it’s 2020 and I beg to ask the question, why has it taken so long and would it have happened if it wasn’t an international movement spawned overseas?”
On the historic acquisition of The Union by Deutsche Bank Collection, Groom thinks about collective, not individual, success.
“The very fact that I am female identifying, I live on my traditional country but it’s south of the Rowley line – there are so many milestones there.
“It’s cutting edge experimental video work, it’s probably the furthest thing you can get from a landscape painting.
“I was thrilled, I congratulated everybody, and I encouraged other private collections to start collecting Aboriginal art.”
An outdoor display of six large-scale exhibition cubes along University Avenue will be free to the public 24/7, featuring work from 24 contemporary artists.
Included on the line-up are Aretha Brown, Gemma O’Brien, Nicole Reed, Nanami Cowdroy, George Rose, Jessica Cochrane, Claire Martin, Claire Foxton, Libby Harward, Kaff-eine and Maddie Gibbs.
And alongside Groom, the work of over 30 emerging and established contemporary artists working across mediums such as photography, illustration, experimental video, street art and sculpture will be presented in aMBUSH Gallery, including Tracey Deep, Lucy O’Doherty, Jane Gillings, 23rd Key, Minna Leunig, Bohie Paleck, Faith, Jenna Lee, Mafalda Vasconcelos, Bronte Leighton-Dore and Holly Greenwood.
aMBUSH Gallery co-founder Bill Dimas says the aim is to make the festival a bi-annual event that bolsters creative women and holds their work up to acclaim.
What’s on at HERE I AM this week:
YWCA Canberra will host this ticketed event with New Zealand High Commissioner to Australia Dame Annette King, one of her country’s longest serving politicians.
- 27/11 ArtHack
A free creative ideas marathon in-person and online. Register via the link.
- 27/11 Meet the Author | In Conversation with Laura Tingle
ABC 7:30’s chief political correspondent, Laura Tingle, in conversation with Dr Don Russell. This is a free event, register via the link.
To browse the full festival program, head to kambri.com.au.