Aboriginal researcher part of milestone exhibition celebrating women artists

26 November 2020

University of Queensland researcher Dr r e a Saunders is proud to have artworks included in a milestone Canberra exhibition titled Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now.

The Brisbane-based artist, curator, activist and academic is also profiled in the Book of the exhibition, and is listed on the companion website under her professional name r e a.

Look Who’s Calling The Kettle Black series 1992

The featured artworks by r e a are PolesApart series 2009 (4 x Photographic triptychs & a single-channel video [6:55 minutes] ed.10) and Look Who’s Calling The Kettle Black series 1992 (Digital Dye sublimation Prints; Ten [19x10cm, 10 x images in each edition] ed.15).

Know My Name opened in mid-November and is on show at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra until 4 July 2021. It is a collection of more than 400 works by 170 female Australian artists.

Drawn from the National Gallery’s collection and loans from across Australia, the exhibition is the most comprehensive presentation of art by women assembled in Australia to date.

PolesApart series 2009

Ahead of the exhibition, the NGA held a conference with keynote addresses which included Genevieve Grieves, an Aboriginal (Worimi nation) educator, curator, oral historian, researcher and artist.

Grieves says she wants more Australians to be aware of female storytellers such as r e a, whom she describes as an “elder of the Australian black art scene”.

"If she wasn't black and she wasn't a woman, more people would know about her,” Grieves says of r e a, during an ABC News interview.

In the interview, Grieves notes that "western history has written us completely out of the narrative; it's excluded Indigenous people, prioritising one form of knowledge and one civilization over all others”.

"For us, art is just one aspect of a completely holistic way of understanding the world and a way of being, so to fragment that system and just focus on one element is very western and colonised," Grieves says.

She says colonisation also disrupted First Nations notions of gender, sexuality and matriarchal systems of power.

"Women's power, women's law, women's culture and art, was respected and had a place, and that place was shattered with the invasion of Australia."

Grieves says there's an ongoing fight to reclaim those structures within Indigenous communities, but sees Know My Name as "an opportunity for us to have deeper conversations about the different positions that we hold — we're all women, but we're diverse women".

Exhibition curators Deborah Hart and Elspeth Pitt say Know My Name is partly a response to the #MeToo movement and the proliferation of women's stories that emerged in its wake.

Their initial proposal began with a slide featuring portraits of women artists.

Ms Pitt says “the question we posed in that original exhibition pitch was, can you name these artists?”

“We wanted to make these women household names in the same way that Tom Roberts, Arthur Boyd and Brett Whiteley are.”

Part One of Know My Name continues until July 2021 and features works drawn from Australian private and public collections including the NGA.

The show explores themes including connection with Country, collaboration, abstraction, memory, and performing gender, the latter featuring Rrap's Persona and Shadow alongside major photographic suites by Anne Ferran and Tracey Moffatt.”

Proud of the exhibition inclusion, r e a also joined Barbara Campbell and Narelle Jubelin to discuss their featured works during a Livestream Artists discussion with Sarina Noordhuis-Fairfax.

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r e a is an artist/curator/ activist/academic/cultural educator/creative thinker from the Gamilaraay / Wailwan / Biripi (NSW) people of Indigenous Australia. r e a’s ongoing practise-led research takes its development from new and critical discourses exploring intersectionality and positionality, through the cultural convergence of Aboriginality; within the creative arts and technology, history and colonialism, the body and identity, gender and queer politics.

r e a is an artist whose experimental digital arts practice spans three decades of reinterpreting western theories of Aboriginality, reframing identity politics and repositioning new stories that challenge these ideas through a contemporary lens of art and history.

r e a has a doctorate in Visual Anthropology, University of New South Wales, Art & Design titled: “‘Vaguely Familiar’: haunted identities, contested histories, Indigenous futures”; which includes a creative body of work that explores the actions of learning to listen to country and draws on a legacy of lived experiences, the impact of intergenerational trauma, grief and loss. In reclamation there is an acknowledgement of de-colonisation / disruption / protest / Indigenisation.

r e a is based within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit at UQ.

 

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