Contemporary Australia: Women

‘Contemporary Australia: Women’ at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) is the second exhibition of the gallery’s triennial series ‘Contemporary Australia’. It includes the work of 33 female Australian artists – indigenous and non-indigenous – working across a variety of media and who are at different stages in their career.

The exhibition investigates the importance of femininity, be it subtle or overt, in the context contemporary Australian art, exploring the social and cultural shifts that have taken place in recent decades. Gender specific concepts such as mother hood, birth, and female sexuality, are presented in new light by the curators, thus challenging preconceived notions of women and women artists in our contemporary society.

What’s in a name?, by Jennifer Mills, is a series of portraits of women by the same name. Sourced through social networking, the candid drawings are snapshots of the lives of over 300 women. With this body of work, Mills illustrates how self-representation and online avatars are increasingly important aspects of contemporary self-identity, and in turn dissects her own identity.

 Deborah Kelly’s photographic portrait series The Miracles is one of the major commission pieces for the exhibition. Kelly sought out and photographed 37 families whose children were conceived through Assisted Reproductive Technology – such as IVF. Family portraits, presented in antique frames, are based on Renaissance paintings of disputed authorship and directly reference their composition, lighting, symbolic objects and subject’s expressions. Kelly invited a varying array of families for the project; “heterosexual, same-sex, transgender, single parents, multigenerational families, and others. All the families have, or are having, ‘miraculously conceived’ children”, she explains.

By looking at ‘miraculous conception’ in both a sacred, religious sense and by modern reproduction technology, Kelly is connecting personal identities and unknown histories throughout the evolution of family sociology; the idea of questioned authenticity resonating through the work on many levels.

The result is a densely layered work of beautifully powerful images that lend the families a sense of mystery, magic, and higher powers. Kelly portrays demographic shifts in contemporary lifestyle, and its evolution through art, technology and society.

‘Contemporary Australia: Women’ celebrates the role of women artists as shaping contemporary Australian art, illuminating valuable female perspectives on current social and political issues and through a diversity of art forms. An emphasis on gender can risk projecting women’s issues onto works where they may be un-intended but presented in the correct fashion, as they are here, the works are left to their devices. ‘Contemporary Australia: Women’ is a showcase of women artists’ perspectives on contemporary issues, rather than a showcase of womens’ issues expressed through art.

Gallery of Modern Art
21 April to 22 July, 2012


Jennifer Mills, What’s in a name? (detail), 2009–11, mixed media on paper, 323 drawings, dimensions variable.

Deborah Kelly, After Circle of Bellini from The Miracles, 2012, dimensions variable.

Deborah Kelly, After after Crevalcore from The Miracles, 2012, dimensions variable.

Courtesy the artist and Gallery Barry Keldoulis, Sydney.