Villainesses thriving in Canberra

Now I know many Australians see Canberra, their national capital, as a soulless, boring, sliced-white-bread sort of place but not so. There is life here. Art is happening – and it’s fresh, vibrant and young. Not all our young people have left (yet!).

Last night Mr Gums and I went to the opening of a collaborative exhibition organised by a group of twenty-somethings. The theme was Villainess. It was chosen, as one of the collaborators Georgia Kartas wrote in the foreword of the accompanying booklet,

for its surface-level but nonetheless undeniable badassery. Heroes have quests, villains have motives.

This is not a politically-focussed feminist exhibition as its name could suggest – though by its very existence it makes a statement about young women and their sense of self, their confidence, their willingness to get out there and do something for themselves. No, in fact it’s a fashion photo shoot exhibition. It is fun, clever, wicked – and it is stylish, as you’d expect from a fashion shoot. You can read something about its origin and the creation process at hercanberra and at Georgia Kartas’ redmagpie blog.

The collaborators were Elly Freer (photographer), Laura McCleane (make-up artist), and Georgia Kartas (fashion editor). The clothing, the hairpieces, the props were all sourced locally.

The photographic subjects are – of course – villainesses and they were chosen by the models – Elly, Laura, Georgia and their friends. There are ten villainesses, and they come from literature, popular culture and mythology, ranging from the very modern, such as Elle Driver from Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, to the very classic, like Medusa.

We loved the exhibition. The photographs are beautiful, and exude a delightful, but intelligent, irreverence which characterises the ethos of the exhibition. A lot of thought has clearly gone into the event, including the production of an accompanying booklet which contains written responses to the villainesses by local writers. These responses give the exhibition an extra dimension – reflective, and often satirical, or tongue-in-cheek. I particularly enjoyed Eleanor Malbon’s response to Elle Driver who was modelled by Elly Freer (what a coincidence in names here!) in which she manages to spoof both Quentin Tarantino and James Cameron (Avatar):

… All together, the problems of the world make a charge at Driver.

Flesh meets steel as she wields her swords. Elle Driver dunks soil erosion in a bucket full of gypsum. She rips the mask off charity programs to reveal their reinforcement of material inequality. Her bullets fly through the heart of the underlying causes of biodiversity loss.

You get the picture I’m sure. The booklet itself, designed by Sheila Papp, is a lovely piece of art and a fabulous memento of the exhibition.

Yep, a good night in which we saw the next generation of artists-creators strutting their stuff. What fun!

Kaori Gallery, Cnr London Circuit and Hobart Place, Civic
7-9 November, 2013

Disclosure: I have known the photographer since she was a baby. Go Elly!

16 thoughts on “Villainesses thriving in Canberra

  1. What a fun evening! It must be especially gratifying to have know the photographer since she was a baby. What a special perspective you have in the development of her talent.

  2. Two responses I have to this piece. 1. how brilliant that you’ve written about it – no doubt the artists involved are very grateful (I’m sure you know exactly where I’m coming from). 2. that’s twice in an hour that I’ve read about this show on-line. So perhaps there’s something worthwhile about this whole internet thingy after all?

    • Thanks Nigel … 1. Yes I do! It wasn’t easy as writing about this was a bit out of my comfort zone. And 2. LOL, yes, I reckon it can be. Like most things it’s all in how you use it, isn’t it.

  3. I hadn’t heard of the gallery or the exhibition and will now check them both out one lunch time soon. Thanks for the review – a wonderful look at the overlapping worlds of art, writing and fashion.

    • Thanks Dani … Unfortunately the exhibition closes today … It was very short. I don’t know what their plans for the photos are now. I’d never heard of the gallery before either. It’s also a framing shop.

  4. What an interesting idea for an exhibition. I suppose Lady MacBeth has a place there too. I just finished watching Prisoners. Have you seen it?

    • Yes, she would Arti, but she wasn’t one of the 10. I thought this morning that I should have finished the post by asking people what villainess they’d have chosen. I’m cranky that I didn’t. I was thinking of Cruella de Vil!

      No, I haven’t seen Prisoners. It’s just started here this week I think so will see if we can get to see it. I’ll watch out for your review.

  5. Sounds like a lot of thought and energy has gone into this! It’s wonderful to see youth taking off with inspiration and organisation. It’s so hard to succeed in the creative world I think it’s important to encourage and give a shout as you are doing here. Good luck villainesses!

    • Agree Catherine … it’s exciting to see. And teamwork makes it so much more achievable often doesn’t it. I love the fact that they even included writers in what was mostly a visual event.

  6. Terrific review! You captured my response to this collaborative project; the sense of powerful young women, (and a lovely cross dressing cyborg! ) with a bit of a sense of fun! I loved the fantasy element, thought the makeup was brilliant. The booklet too a well produced response featuring local writers. Great to see the group doubling up as models, artists, etc! Great concept… And I too have known the photographer since birth! Well done Ell and all.

    • If memory serves me correctly, you may even have known her longer than I have, Mother of Elly!

      Glad you liked the review. It was such a thrill to be there, to see the vibe of young people doing something with such enthusiasm and style. The fun-fantasy element was great. And I loved the collaborative, all-inclusiveness of it.

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