SALA Featured Artist - Sue KNEEBONE
Adelaide-based artist Sue Kneebone excavates her own family history to explore broader issues of cultural identity. For better or for worse is a photomontage based on a 1890s wedding portrait of Kneebone's great-grandparents who ran a pastoral property in the Gawler Ranges, north of the Eyre Peninsula.
The muted sepia tones of the wedding portrait at first glance conceal Kneebone's introduced imagery - the skulls of a ram and goat, a rifle made from animal bones and at the couple's feet a dead night parrot, a species now believed to be extinct. By introducing these elements, Kneebone disrupts the narrative and questions the impact of colonisation.
Kneebone's work of art invites us to re-read the nearby photographs on display. Many of these photographs are contemporaneous with her own family archive from the late nineteenth century.
The sculptural installation Angelfire consists of an arsenal of pistols and rifles made from animal bones. This unsettling constellation evokes the litany of deaths brought about by pastoralism. The guns also seem to be a harbinger of further environmental catastrophe. For Kneebone the consequences of our actions, both past and present, echo into the future, creating what she calls "an uncertain dialogue between memory and history".
Since 2000, Sue Kneebone has been engaging in site-specific installations in response to various urban and regional environments in Australia. These have been temporary interventions allowing for encounters with the public extending beyond the traditional boundaries of the gallery space.
Kneebone’s process of working involves a particular emphasis on learning about the cultural habitat of place, including narratives of human interference and environmental degradation. Her recent PhD project at the South Australian School of Art focused on researching historical narratives in relation to the pastoral frontier of the Gawler Ranges in the northwest of South Australia with which her forebears were intimately connected.
Her exhibition Naturally Disturbed at the SASA Gallery in 2010 involved a collaboration with the South Australia Museum, with artefacts from the Gawler Ranges region exhibited alongside Kneebone’s reflective responses to the social and environmental ramifications of this pastoral history. She has exhibited nationally, including regional environmental art projects.