Kylie Banyard is a multidisciplinary artist and educator. Her artistic practice is grounded in painting and intersects with photography, video, sculpture and immersive architectural spaces. Banyard was included in The National 2019: New Australian Art at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and recently completed a VR Studio with Tactical Spacelab (funded by the Australia Council and Arts NSW). She has been included in significant group exhibitions including Art from Down Under: Australia to New Zealand, Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, North Carolina (2018); Another Green World, The Western Plains Cultural Centre (2017); The Mnemonic Mirror, Griffith University Art Museum, Brisbane, and UTS Gallery, Sydney (2016-2017).
Banyard has received competitive funding from Arts NSW and the National Association for the Visual Arts, as well as postgraduate research grants including the Australian Postgraduate Award from the University of NSW and the COFA, UNSW Travel Grant. She has been the recipient of several competitive artist’s residencies, such as the Cité International des Arts Paris, France and the Firstdraft Emerging Studio Residency Program, Sydney.
Banyard has been a finalist in the Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize, the Ravenswood Australian Women’s Art Prize and was awarded the National Tertiary Art Prize and The Basil and Muriel Art’s Scholarship, Art Gallery of NSW. She has a PhD in Fine Arts from the University of NSW and is a Lecturer of Visual Art at La Trobe University. Banyard’s work is held in numerous public and private collections including Artbank, Australia.
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THE HEROINE PAINT (WITH AMBER WALLIS)
29 JUNE TO 17 JULY 2021
The Heroine Paint, Melbourne is a joint exhibition of new and recent work by Kylie Banyard & Amber Wallis.
The exhibition follows the artists’ exhibition The Heroine Paint at Lismore Regional Gallery, curated by Kezia Geddes, current to 1 August 2021.
The Heroine Paint brings together the work of Kylie Banyard and Amber Wallis, highlighting their visions of painterly utopia. The artists pay homage to American Abstract Expressionism of the 1940s and 50s, which rejected representational norms within art and painting. Spontaneity stood at the centre of this, and a purist’s distillation of materials. The counterculture of the 1960s and 70s, which had similar aspirations to breakdown boundaries and initiate change, is also present in both artists’ work. Despite intentions for a new agenda that went with these movements, power remained largely patriarchal. Women have continued to be marginalised by this status quo. The Heroine Paint reconfigures this inequity to the advantage of women.
Kylie Banyard draws on Black Mountain College’s (1933-1957) photographic archive to realise lived and imagined narratives. Based in the picturesque mountains of North Carolina, the College had a non-hierarchical structure and students and teachers lived side-by-side. In addition to their education in art, design, architecture, theatre, costume, and the written word, students grew food, worked the land, cooked and ate together, and participated in construction projects. Tasks of the day were all artful and of equal importance. It was a community where art, life and education were intertwined.
The photographic archive that Banyard has used documents what was happening at the college. It shows that women were not only present, they were active in all aspects of college life. However, as careers progressed it was evident that the art world and market still favoured men. There were female students at the school who gained recognition, and Ruth Asawa, Susan Weil and Elaine de Kooning were among them, however their reputations do not match those of the men. Josef Albers, Robert Motherwell, Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning are some major names associated with Black Mountain.
In Banyard’s work, canvas (the heroic material that was used by American Abstract Expressionists as a field for colour and form and expanded to macho proportions) connects the work to the history of painting. However, the material also links to the feminine. The large spans of fabric connote the American tradition of quilting and ‘women’s craft’.
The repositioning of the historical images invites us to look towards an alternative future. Women are strong and capable protagonists, working outdoors and using their hands to make art, tend fields and build alternative futures. Banyard has long been interested in intentional communities, and she has choreographed one that presents women in ways that appear nurturing, cooperative and non-combative. In highlighting these traits that are often associated with women, she brings a shifted lens to what is valuable.
Amber Wallis is similarly drawn to reimagining the utopia to tussle real and imagined stories in paint. Although she is very much connected with the here and now, her work follows some of the principles of American Abstract Expressionism, including those of the painters of the Black Mountain School. Her art is characterised by gestural brushstrokes or mark-making, and the impression of spontaneity. Paint leads her on a journey from start to finish. It sits into the canvas, staining it like in the work of the great Abstract painter, Helen Frankenthaler. Banyard also uses this technique of staining and the two artists are drawn together by the softness this brings to their painting. The figurative stage of Banyard’s work creates a kind of stage for she and Wallis, collapsing time as though they are practicing in the period of the Black Mountain College.
Structures from countercultural architecture often provide a framework which sets in motion a wrestle of remembering and forgetting through and in paint. As a daughter of the counterculture, Wallis’s early childhood was set on Waiheke and Great Barrier Islands in New Zealand, in hippy shacks without water or electricity. Her family grew marijuana to sell on the mainland, the Islands providing distance from mainstream society, but also from possums and goats which would otherwise eat the crops. Wallis’s paintings reference handmade houses including those from a book belonging to her father (Woodstock Handmade Houses, 1974). The book and the homes in it were projections of the life they were aiming towards. On the dark side of this utopia, Wallis and her mother left due to early childhood sexual trauma within the countercultural community, and because the freedoms and opportunities that her mother had imagined were being eroded.
Wallis’s paintings often commence with images of pornography, which initiate a call and response to mark making and erasure in order to traverse these risky beginnings. Sex is raw and exhilarating territory of titillation and drawn by a woman it throws complex light on ‘appropriateness’, and how sex speaks to empowerment and disempowerment. Imagery is obscured because there comes a point in Wallis’s mind where it is less relevant. The subject is a means into form, colour, and texture, and how they sit against one another to activate the picture. The reference material is there, however, it is pushed into the background like subconscious memories.
While women have been peripheral to the major thrust of much of art history, The Heroine Paint positions Kylie Banyard and Amber Wallis at the crescendo of their declared ‘influences and references’. The exhibition builds an alternative history and places the artists in it as current day heroines of paint.
catalogue essay for The Heroine Paint at Lismore Regional Gallery by Kezia Geddes, 2021
In response to Amber Wallis’s Women, shown at Nicholas Thompson Gallery in 2020, Amanda Maxwell wrote:
‘I’ve never seen a ghost
Bit if I was to I know it would be the ghost of a woman
I don’t know why
Is more of a woman left?
Did she touch more?
Wallis’s paintings in this new show figure their characters in a ghostly way, too. We see women, in these compositions, through a glass; that is, through something which obscures them, absorbs them into the canvas, siphons them out of our layer of reality and into some elsewhere. In Holding Companions, 2021, for instance, washes of colour simultaneously render and obscure our titular pair – one, seemingly, a woman, the other, seemingly, a man – in a drapery of paint at once resplendently sensory and somehow immaterial. The ‘seeming’ of our pair here is important: this painting doesn’t spoon-feed us its content, or sit at a comfortable place of representational rest. Within the abstract space of the picture, the flesh of the figures shifts and moves impossibly. What is clear, and significant, is that they hold each other. This holding – this communality – is at the centre of Wallis’s and Banyard’s shared concerns.
Wallis’s earlier work has, often, been interested in sensuality, sexual desire, and the dynamics of secret-keeping and revelation. Here, however, there is a shift to thinking more about what togetherness, both in body and in spirit, can be beyond the sexual. Figures embrace, support each other, and come to define each other in gesture, shape, and colour.
Maxwell’s ghostly women ‘hold more,’ and a feminist visual poetics indeed underpins Wallis’s work about holding. For Wallis, this is accomplished in part through the reclamation of Abstract Expressionist visual vocabularies. Wallis defiantly uses the tropes of a movement which, despite its professed radicality, remained historically the domain primarily of superstar male painters – and certainly continued to exist within patriarchal art and social worlds. Wallis’s feminism is also expressed through the way that these paintings figure the self: as deeply contingent upon others, and as bound up in relationships of care and community.
Banyard has been interested over the course of her career in finding, and telling, feminist histories. Her work in Nicholas Thompson’s ‘Holding Ground,’ 2020, like her work for the second iteration of ‘The National: New Australian Art’ in 2019, pictured the radical pedagogies of the mid-20th century American art school Black Mountain College. For these projects, Banyard drew from archival images showing pedagogical practice at the college, where women teachers and students shared moments of discovery, mutual learning, and co-creation. Here, too, was a vision – historical, rather than speculative as Wallis’s are – of women holding each other.
Banyard’s work for this latest show retains the aesthetic that was developed in ‘Holding Ground,’ picturing women at work, play, creation, and rest. In Lady Macbeth in Boone, 2018, one woman dons a crown to become Shakespeare’s feminine anti-hero, while another paints what seems – ‘seems,’ again – to be the set on which a play might take place. In these pictures, creation reiterates itself, over and over: Baynard paints a woman painting, so that another woman again can perform.
Even Banyard’s solitary subjects are creators and collaborators. Does the crown resting next to the figure in Elaine, 2017, make this woman part of the same production? Is Anni, 2017, constructing part of the same set? Attending to the connections between paintings, here, we can find in Banyard’s work not only an under-examined, utopian past, but a time more conditional, or even subjunctive.
Banyard, like Wallis, paints a world removed to some layer above (or perhaps, more rightly, rippling beneath) our own. This is a world in which we can see flashes of touch, teaching, and togetherness which are imaginative – and corrective – in a way that both encompasses and exceeds the feminism with which these artists are frequently aligned.
Artist Profile online, 28 June 2021
11 TO 29 NOVEMBER 2020
Holding Ground continues Kylie Banyard’s exploration of alternate models for living and learning. Her work explores and brings to a new audience the radical pedagogies of American mid-20th century art school Black Mountain College. Those pedagogies are based in practices of care for others, the development of the whole person, and care for community and environment. The paintings in this exhibition focus on a small group of archival photographs in which female artists and students are engaged in intimate exchanges and moments of co-creation, responsive to the wild mountainous land surrounding them: farming, making, reading and dancing. Banyard combines archival research with fantasy, drawing on images and ideas from the past, bringing them into the present through a painting process that conflates and overlays facets of her own domestic space and lived experience with Black Mountain College’s historical record – her paintings propose a present that is thick with remembrances of the past.
In Kylie Banyard’s newest paintings the mood is simultaneously mystical, technicolour, strangely nostalgic and enduringly hopeful. While her latest oil and acrylic works emerged from interests in the experimental American art school Black Mountain College, which in the
mid-20th century emphasised holistic learning, this isn’t necessarily clear. Yet the aura of the influence is apparent, particularly in the most compelling paintings that depict women working together in acts of toil and farming, their skin tinged by vivid pinks and blues, blending into the environment in which they work. Existing in luminous lighting, the women’s movements are choreographed in ways that feel caring and reciprocal, not exploitative or competitive.
For an artist with a practice across many mediums, it’s clear Banyard knows painting: colours expertly morph into one another; shaded and flattened areas are designed for maximum impact; a single painting of a house is masterfully skewed, drifting on a pink background, curiously emerging as both a relic from the past and a dream of the future. Alongside the paintings are textile and sculptural forms, yet these don’t quite enhance the atmosphere the paintings so brilliantly conjure − a reverie on labour and creation, and women being with women.
Tiarney Miekus 'Galleries' in The Age Saturday 21 November, p 9 (Spectrum)
ARTIST IN CONVERSATION WITH CURATOR AND WRITER AMELIA WALLIN
THE IMPROBABLE OUTSIDE
28 FEBRUARY TO 18 MARCH
In the introduction of Architecture from the Outside Elizabeth Grosz refers to the outside as "the place one can never occupy fully or completely, for it is always other, different, at a distance from where one is." (Grosz, 2000, p.16) She talks about the unexpected and liberating joy of "outsideness" as being able to see what one might not be able to see from the inside. Grosz's proposition is not particularly comforting or reassuring, but it is alluring and it appeals to the utopian imaginary. This group of paintings occupies an affectual reckoning of Grosz's "outsideness". In the process of making these works I've tried to hover somewhere else for a while, in a state of unknowing, to make paintings in a more intuitive way. There are associations with works I've made in the past but the connections are casual and have become obscured.
EXHIBITION PRESS Link to Art Almanac Exhibition Preview here
KYLIE BANYARD & AMBER WALLIS EXHIBITION REVIEWED BY ‘ARTIST PROFILE’ ONLINE
Amber Wallis & Kylie Banyard By Artist Profile A new show at Nicholas Thompson Gallery follows from Amber Wallis and Kylie Banyard’s success with ‘The Heroine Paint’ at Lismore Regional Gallery. In this latest exhibition, Banyard and Wallis paint into being both feminist histories and utopian futures, using the canvas as a foundation from which…
AMBER WALLIS & KYLIE BANYARD JOINT EXHIBITION ‘THE HEROINE PAINT’ AT LISMORE REGIONAL GALLERY 12 JUNE TO 1 AUGUST 2021
This exhibition brings together the work of Amber Wallis and Kylie Banyard, highlighting their visions of painterly utopia. Their work pays homage to American Abstract Expressionism of the 1940s and 50s, which strove towards an alternative image for art and painting. Spontaneity stood at the centre of this, and a purist’s distillation of materials. The…
KYLIE BANYARD EXHIBITION AT CASTLEMAINE ART GALLERY UNTIL 31 JANUARY
The first exhibition in CAM’s Orbit program; a series of exhibitions by artists who live and work in Central Victoria. Kylie Banyard’s practice is grounded in painting and intersects with photography, video and sculpture, as well as fields such as architecture and education. In her work, she explores the utopian imagination and the history of experimental models…
KYLIE BANYARD EXHIBITION REVIEWED IN ‘THE AGE’ BY TIARNEY MIEKUS
In Kylie Banyard’s newest paintings the mood is simultaneously mystical, technicolour, strangely nostalgic and enduringly hopeful. While her latest oil and acrylic works emerged from interests in the experimental American art school Black Mountain College, which in the mid-20th century emphasised holistic learning, this isn’t necessarily clear. Yet the aura of the influence is apparent,…
KYLIE BANYARD IS A FINALIST IN THE ARTHUR GUY MEMORIAL PAINTING PRIZE 2019 AT BENDIGO ART GALLERY
Kylie Banyard ‘Lady Macbeth in Boone’ 2018 oil and acrylic on canvas 127 x 183 cm Exhibition current 14 September to 8 December 2019