Vernon Ah Kee

- unwritten 2007
  • charcoal on paper
65 cm x 76 cm

Born in Far North Queensland, Vernon Ah Kee is a conceptual artist and a founding member of the Brisbane-based proppaNOW indigenous artists' collective. Vernon's work critiques Australian popular culture, particularly the dichotomy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal societies and cultures. His art practice consists of video, 3D installation, photography, digital design, painting, printmaking, and drawing.

The Unwritten works are a small series in which rather than delineating form with carefully drawn lines and shading, the face seems to appear almost by accident from a convergence of lines on a blank background. The affect is of a form of automatism with a ghostly and haunting face appearing unexpectedly - the eyes are back voids and the mouth is a gathering of darkness.

Ah Kee made them in response to the death in police custody of a young man, Mulrunji, on Palm Island in 2004. The apparent police cover up and protection of their own lead to accusations of racism, riots by the Islanders and their further oppression by the police.Ah Kee's response is to conjure these faces from his charcoal pencil lashing across the canvas. While there was an originary moment in the Palm Island riots, the faces are also non-specific, referring to the haunting history of racism and violence against indigenous peoples in Australia. This powerful presence also suggests the often unspoken motivations for actions and interactions between Australians of different racial and ethnic backgrounds today.

Source: Vernon Ah Kee and Art Gallery of New South Wales

© Vernon Ah Kee


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The Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art acknowledges all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Custodians of Country and recognises their continuing connection to land, sea, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

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