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!