Here I Am! – it’s not only a proud proclamation but also the title of this summer’s major cultural arts festival at Kambri at the ANU.
Inspired by the Know my Name movement, it’s a strong statement about women artists and their place in Australian culture – a place often forgotten or ignored in the past but on which some significant forces are now being brought to bear.
As part of the festival, Kambri’s newest cultural space on Exhibition Avenue will feature an outdoor exhibition of large scale works by contemporary women artists from across Australia. There’s also a multidisciplinary exhibition at the aMBUSH Gallery Kambri, featuring diverse art from emerging and established women.
It’s a fulfilment too for Bill Dimas who has been helming a vision around marking and celebrating women’s art for more than 14 years. Wiltshire & Dimas are creating the public engagement at Kambri where the focus is on drawing people into the space with energy and creative ideas from 100 women artists.
“For many years aMBUSH has had a focus on discovering female talent and encouraging female artists with street and contemporary Indigenous arts practices,” he says.
Cultivating a network of contacts through conferences, artists talks and female-led art exhibitions, Dimas is confident that they can pull off something of lasting significance for both the artists and the community at large.
“It brings together the hard work of the last 14 years and puts amazingly talented artists at the forefront. We can create a showcase at Kambri across multiples genres and several locations. It’s a bit like putting together a shopping list for people who are interested in engaging with female artists but are looking for a way in. This is an excellent platform to engage the public.”
Twenty-four contemporary women artists from across Australia, working in multi-disciplinary practices including street art, fine art, photography and illustration will participate in the Exhibition Avenue space until 28 February. Decals placed on the ground in front of each artwork will give viewers an insight into the artist’s motivation, intentions and inspiration.
Inside the aMBUSH gallery there will be works from a further 30 artists including Lucy O’Doherty, Jane Gillings, 23rd Key, Minna Leunig, Maddie Gibbs, Nicole Reed, Jenna Lee, Mafalda Vasconcelos, Bronte Leighton-Dore and Holly Greenwood, to name a few.
Among the participants is award-winning Wiradjuri conceptual artist Amala Groom, whose digital work The Union features in the exhibition.
Groom says her work is a form of passionate activism, intended to subvert and unsettle western symbols and undermine the legacy of colonialism. Her work argues that colonialism is not just disadvantageous for First Peoples but is, in fact, antithetical to the human experience. It hurts us all at some level.
The Union, a video work, shows a red rope representing the miwi (spirit) connecting a network of eucalypts. Dressed as a bride, Groom uses the rope to navigate and decolonise Country in a performance that imagines the wedding ritual as a balancing act as the performer seeks spiritual enlightenment and a fundamental connection to land, language, lore and custom.
Dimas says it’s important to recognise how highly skilled these practitioners are.
“Look at the street artists for example, who work with photo-realism on a huge scale, often only using their phones for reference. It’s very fast and highly skilled work.
“Other genres like sculpture and contemporary illustration tackle humour and embrace comic subjects. What people will see at Here I Am is a multi-diverse skillset of different artists from around Australia.”
The exhibition opens at aMBUSH Gallery Kambri on Friday, 20 November from 7:00 pm and will include live music from Vessel Collective DJs, Niamh and Maleika, plus complimentary drinks from Lerida Estate and Capital Brewing.
There’s also a free program of films that profile and celebrate influential female artists, either through documentary or scripted narratives, beginning with Selina Miles’ acclaimed documentary Martha, a picture story about photographer Martha Cooper and her photographs of a vibrant New York City in the ’70s and ’80s. The film season runs through to 18 December.
Here I Am is a free, family-friendly festival that will showcase some of Australia’s best female creative talent through outdoor public art and gallery exhibitions, live art and music, public talks, film screenings, ArtHack and more.
Running from 20 November 2020 until 28 February 2021, it’s presented by Kambri at ANU and curated and produced by aMBUSH Gallery, who have formed a cultural partnership with the National Gallery of Australia for the project. aMBUSH Gallery is open 10:00 am to 6:00 pm weekdays and 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm on weekends. Admission is free. For more information, visit Kambri.