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Eye of our Ancestors now on at ArtSpace at Realm

Published on 13 March 2019
  • Arts and culture
  • Events

Women have emerged as prominent figures on the Indigenous arts scene – something a new exhibition at ArtSpace at Realm sets out to showcase.

Eye of our Ancestors presents the work of five Indigenous female artists who poignantly reflect upon, and proudly advocate for, a deeper relationship with heritage.

Charlotte Allingham, Deanne Gilson, Genevieve Grieves, Kelly Koumalatsos and Amanda Wright each bring to this exhibition a strong connection to culture.

Launching the exhibition in celebration of International Women’s Day on Friday 8 March, Deputy Mayor Cr Kylie Spears said the work of the artists was motivated by a strong sense of social activism, harnessing the power of art to forge a bold new cultural identity and individual voice.

“Reconnecting with culture through a critical lens is a vital part of the work of each of these artists. Their use of traditional colours, symbolism and material has been reinterpreted through contemporary art forms, such as digital illustration and collage, sculpture, painting, printmaking and video,” Cr Spears said.

“This year’s International Women’s Day theme ‘Balance for Better’ has a lot in common with the aims of this powerful exhibition, which calls on us all to foster an equitable, fair and responsible society.

“We are thrilled that one of the five artists in this exhibition, Amanda Wright, is a member of Maroondah’s Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place, an important community organisation committed to retaining, promoting and strengthening Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander cultural identity in the Eastern Metropolitan region.

“Amanda’s paintings are proud representations of her people and explorations of her Palawa heritage,” she said.

Cr Spears said Council was also pleased to be presenting the work of Kelly Koumalatsos, whose work has recently been acquired for the Maroondah City Council Art Collection.

“The work draws our attention to the ineffectiveness of colonial clothing as a poor substitution for traditional possum skin cloaks.

“In addition to being delighted to present for the first time this recent acquisition, we are also grateful for the assistance and cultural advice that Kelly has provided in the development of the Eye of our Ancestors exhibition.

“I would like to thank all of the artists for their insightful and intelligent contributions – Charlotte Allingham whose graphic illustrations are dedicated to changing the perception of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women through popular culture and sub-genres; Deanne Gilson whose digital collages poignantly portray colonisation and mistreatment of Aboriginal women; and Genevieve Grieves’ powerful video work depicting Yaaran Bundle in a dance of healing and remembering.

“Yaaran is a Victorian First Nations artist and dancer of Kirraw Wurrong/Gunditjmara (kee-ray wo-rong/goo-tchi-mara) heritage. She is also the daughter of artist Vicki Couzens who is represented in Council’s Art Collection,” Cr Spears said.

The exhibition is on until Sunday 28 April 2019, at ArtSpace at Realm, Ringwood Town Square (opposite Ringwood Railway Station) 179 Maroondah Highway, Ringwood.

About the artists

Charlotte Allingham


Charlotte Allingham is a proud Wiradjuri woman and specialises in digital design and illustration. She strives towards a better understanding of her craft, her culture and identity through her artwork, challenging the perception of her people through her own creative expression in a range of themes of modern subcultures, occultism and the First Nation’s futurism.

Allingham’s work rose to Instagram fame on 26 January 2018. Earlier that month she had posted an image of protest: A women standing above a crowd holding a sign, ‘Always was, always will be Aboriginal land’. Within days, her Instagram followers had multiplied to more than 14,000, with the image shared across social media thousands of times.

Since 2018, Allingham has made a conscious act to use her skills as an artist to promote her culture. She is dedicated to changing the perception of Indigenous people through her work and connect with a broad audience through popular culture, contemporary subcultures, horror and fantasy.

Deanne Gilson


Deanne Gilson is a proud Wadawurrung woman and an award-winning multimedia visual artist.

Her work focuses on reclaiming traditional knowledge by reflecting the colonial gaze back and challenging Western portrayals of Aboriginal people.

Her work aims to heal through reviving ceremonial practice within her art. Her artworks channel the ancestors past, present and future.

Gilson is further exploring her Aboriginal heritage through a Master of Arts (Visual Art) by research at the Institute of Koorie Education, Deakin University, as a PhD candidate.

Genevieve Grieves

Genevieve Grieves is a Melbourne-based educator, curator, filmmaker, award-winning artist and oral historian committed to sharing Australian Indigenous histories and cultures.

Her artistic practice is directly inspired by storytelling and history to bring about positive social change.

Grieves is a descendant of the Worimi people of mid-north coast, New South Wales and has lived on Kulin country for many years.

Featured in Eye of our Ancestors is ‘lament’, a seven-minute video installation created by Grieves, which she describes as an active work of memorialisation.

“‘lament’ is an act of memorialisation, an act of remembrance. As it is through the recognition of what has gone before – however difficult this journey may be – that we can mourn, heal and find some peace within and between ourselves," Grieves said.

Grieves was the lead curator of the internationally award-winning First Peoples’ exhibition at the Melbourne Museum and is currently undertaking her PhD at the University of Melbourne.

Kelly Koumalatsos

Artist Kelly Koumalatsos explores printing techniques using possum fur, woollen blankets and other media.

Incorporating historic images of Koorie people from across Victoria wearing possum skin cloaks, the prints present a layered narrative of Koorie heritage, reinforcing both the pre-contact cloaks worn in the images and the blankets they were replaced with during colonisation.

Her work goes beyond the traditional methods of using possum fur, while remaining deeply embedded with her connection to her Wergaia and Wemba Wemba culture.

Drawing on historic source materials, along with her own family and cultural heritage, Koumalatsos’ practice reveals the hidden legacy of colonisation, and a continuing cultural practice in spite of it.

“Originally my art was a form of activism and reclaiming cultural practices. My practice has evolved into an exploration of aesthetics and themes focusing on the visual research around possum skin cloaks.

“I have created art works that celebrate and shed light on the character of the people depicted. I reproduce a selection of photographs of people with their possum skin cloaks. Through these works I pay homage to the ancestors, and I make a statement about the identity of Aboriginal people,” Koumalatsos said.

Amanda Wright


Amanda Wright is a member of the Ringwood-based Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place, a group committed to retaining, promoting and strengthening Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander cultural identity in the Eastern Metropolitan region.

Wright’s paintings are drawn from her Palawa heritage, and she connects to her ancestor through the portraits she paints.

Wright’s vibrant and graphic artworks celebrate the diversity of Australia’s First Nations People. They depict a strength and beauty, as well as a connection to spirit and land, through being part of the oldest living culture in the world.

“I have always been into art as it has been passed down to me, from generation to generation, and I wish to pass the gift to my children. This country has more beauty that can be captured, but through my artwork of Indigenous Australians I hope to capture and reveal the real Australia,” Wright said. 

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