Deborah Kelly is a Sydney-based artist whose works have been shown around Australia, and in the Singapore, Sydney, Thessaloniki and Venice Biennales. Her projects across media are concerned with lineages of representation, politics and history in public exchange. She is a founding member of the boat-people artist collective, most recently included in the 2014 TarraWarra Biennial. Her work Tank Man Tango: a Tiananmen Memorial was included in Zero Tolerance at MOMA PS1, NYC, (Oct 2014–Apr 2015) touring to Basel Miami. Her MCA-commissioned work considering the rise of religiosity in the public sphere, Beware of the God, included videos in train stations, dossiers on politicians and projections onto clouds over Sydney Harbour.
Kelly’s collage-based artworks have been shown in galleries and cinemas around Australia, in London, Cologne, Weimar, Leipzig, Moscow, St Petersburg, Seoul, Paris, Rio, Zagreb, Prague, Brno, Ljubljana, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vienna, Jakarta, Bandung and several US cities.
She won the 2015 Cayte Latta Award for Visual Arts, the 2013 Redlands Art Prize Audience Award, the 2012 Albury Art Prize, the 2009 Fisher’s Ghost Award, the 2009 Screengrab International New Media Art Award, and with boat-people.org, the 2004 WINK Award. Tank Man Tango was shortlisted for the Sadler’s Wells Global Dance Contest, and Hey, Hetero! won the 2001 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras visual art award.
Deborah Kelly: No Human Being Is Illegal (in all our glory) | Touring Exhibition
Installation view Murray Art Museum Albury, 2015. (Image from Museums and Art Galleries of NSW)
Created for the 19th Biennale of Sydney (2014), the work comprises 20 life-sized photographic portraits realised through ongoing discussion, exchange and art making between the artist, the subjects and public participants. The collaboration centres upon the nude photographic portraits of individuals who were intricately involved in the process. These raw and unornamented portraits developed over time as workshop participants added layers of archival and contemporary imagery specific to the subjects’ interests, attributes and vision, conveyed to the ensemble (through written, online or personal communications) by the portrait subjects themselves.
The portraits will continue to evolve throughout the tour and venues have the opportunity to undertake a series of on-site artist led workshops with their local communities. Through this ongoing process of collage and exchange, the portraits will draw from the personal and collective stories of each host community.
For the better part of the last three decades, Kelly has created a prolific body of mixed-media artworks that are at once unexpected, humorous, provocative, egalitarian, challenging and profound. Often politically motivated, her artworks explore ideas of discrimination in all its manifestations, highlighting racial, sexual and religious prejudices that exist in society today.
Educational resources will also be available as well as access to the artist to continue the evolving nature of the works through intensive artist led workshops and public programming. Additional ephemera documenting the artist’s process and research is also available, including an archive of over 3,000 photographs by photographer Nancy Skinner, video documentation of the artwork’s conception and development, and printed/audio recordings of stories relating to the portrait subjects.