Instructions for another future VI
Instructions for another future VI

Kate Mcmillan

1974 - Instructions for another future VI 2018
  • digital print on silk chiffon, silk velvet, hagstone and bronze

Selected works from The Wesfarmers Collection by West Australian-born and London-based artist Kate McMillan are set to go on display at the Art Gallery of Western Australia this month.

Kate McMillan is one of several leading artists born or brought up in Western Australia who continue to maintain close professional and personal ties to Perth while choosing to live and work internationally.

Now based in London, with her partner, artist Matthew Hunt and their young family, McMillan has a dual career as an artist and academic, publishing on gender and politics in art and art history.  Her practice as an artist traverses film and photography, as well as sculpture, sound, installation and performance.  She has undertaken residencies in St Petersburg, Tokyo, London, Basel, Beijing and Sydney and exhibited across the United Kingdom and Europe,  Australia, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Her work carries within it an implicit respect for the nuances of the many places and histories within which she freely moves as an artist, making work in a global context and for a global audience. 

McMillan’s art responds with a sense of the poetic to instances of human interaction in specific places and landscapes, embodying both an accumulation of personal experience and memories, as well as the histories of others, of individual lives lived in earlier times.   Ultimately, though, her images and installations create environments that seem to float free from specifics of place and the arc of time.   

The Wesfarmers Collection holds two works by Kate McMillan.  Lost – a series of photographs originally presented as part of an installation incorporating film and sound – is a meditation on loss and grief.  With this series, she returns as an adult to Lake Taraewera in New Zealand to photograph a landscape of deep significance to her father in his childhood. 

Located in one of the most seismically active zones on the earth, Lake Taraewera was the site of a catastrophic volcanic eruption in the late nineteenth century that buried the villages surrounding the lake and their sleeping inhabitants: ‘freezing that moment forever, while simultaneously concealing it’ the artist explains.  ‘Lost is about simultaneously losing memories and trying to preserve them.  It is about understanding the past, trying to piece together fragments and pulling it into some kind of poetic experience that is no longer about me, but some kind of universal experience’ .  

Instructions for another future VI continues McMillan’s investigations into understanding the past and the power of association – in this instance exploring the resonance of a formation of nature traditionally associated with the realm of witchcraft.  Hagstones are natural stones found along coastlines and riverbanks with holes through which it was thought witches could see into the future and otherworldly realms.   

In draped, diaphanous layers of plush velvet and silk chiffon, onto which McMillan has printed the photographic image of a hagstone, and into whose folds she has sewn both an actual hagstone and a hand-made bronze cast, McMillan marries digital imagery with the materiality of stone, bronze and fine silks.  A coming together of the contemporary with the ancient - a portal between present and past and between the tangible and the intangible evoked through the enigma of a talisman created by nature.

It is both a joy and a privilege to be able to work every day at Wesfarmers in the company of these works by Kate McMillan and indeed, those of many other premier Western Australian artists.   They bring into our working lives, an engagement with the emotional, the intuitive, the intellectual and the sensory that allow us to step into the space occupied by the artist.  In the intimacy of the encounter with a work of art, we are paradoxically bought into our own capacity for imagination.  And that is a wonderful gift that artists give to all of us.

Learn more about Kate McMillan at:






More by this artist

Kate Mcmillan 1974 - Lost IV
  • digital prints

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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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