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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Forum participants

Biographies of participants in the Writing lives, revealing lives forum.

Performer Paul Capsis was raised a strict Catholic by his mother and grandmother in the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills. He suffered relentless bullying growing up for his ethnicity and his effeminacy, and as a teenager, he became increasingly drawn to stars including Janis Joplin, Billie Holliday, Marlene Dietrich, Nina Simone and Edith Piaf. In 1988, Paul made his professional debut in Sydney and over the next few years performed solo shows inspired by cabaret singers of international renown. During the same period, he began appearing on television and in the theatre. His accolades include a Sydney Film Critics Award for Head On (1998), and Helpmann Awards for Capsis vs Capsis (2002), Boulevard Delirium (2006), and Angela’s Kitchen (2012).

Brenda L Croft is from the Gurindji / Malngin / Mudburra peoples from the Victoria River region, Northern Territory, and Anglo-Australian / German / Irish / Chinese heritage. Brenda has been involved in the contemporary arts and cultural sectors for three decades as an artist, arts administrator, curator, academic and consultant. She is Associate Professor, Indigenous Art History and Curatorship, ANU Centre for Art History and Art Theory, and Adjunct Fellow, National Institute for Experimental Arts, UNSW Art & Design Australia. Brenda’s practice-led research encompasses critical performative Indigenous auto-ethnography, representation, identity and creative narratives, with a long-standing engagement with patrilineal family and community members, both on traditional homelands and as part of dispossessed, Gurindji-affiliated communities. Her doctoral research project Still in my mind: Gurindji location, experience and visuality – a collaborative exhibition with Karungkarni Art & Culture Aboriginal Corporation, UNSW Galleries, UNSW Art & Design and UQ Art Museum – will tour nationally September 2018 – 2021.

Kim Mahood is a writer and artist based in Wamboin near Canberra. She grew up in Central Australia and on Tanami Downs Station, and has maintained strong connections with the Warlpiri traditional owners of the station and with the families of the Walmajarri stockmen who worked with her family. She continues to spend several months each year in the Tanami and Great Sandy Desert region, working on cultural and environmental mapping projects with Aboriginal traditional owners. Her prize-winning memoir Craft for a Dry Lake was published in 2000, and her second memoir Position Doubtful was published in 2016. Kim writes regularly for Griffith Review. She was the H C Coombs Creative Arts Fellow in 2014.

Writer Dr Lucy Neave completed a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing at the Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville on a Fulbright scholarship. She is Senior Lecturer, Creative Writing at the ANU School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics. Lucy’s first novel Who We Were (published by Text, Melbourne, 2013) was shortlisted for the ACT Book of the Year Award in 2014. She has published in Best Australian Stories 2009 & 2014, and in Australian and American literary journals, including Overland and Southerly. Her scholarly essays are on fiction writing process, writers' practices and pedagogy. She is the recipient of an Australia Council for the Arts grant, and a Varuna Second Book Fellowship.

Sebastian Smee is the art critic at the Washington Post and the author of The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art, 2016. As art critic for the Boston Globe, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2011, and was runner up in 2008. In Australia Sebastian has worked as the art critic for both the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian. In the UK, he worked for the Daily Telegraph, The Art Newspaper, The Guardian, The Independent, The Times and other publications. He has authored five books on Lucian Freud and one on Mark Bradford, and he teaches non-fiction writing at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, USA.

Canberra artist Dr Nicola Dickson uses painting and installation to explore how perceptions of the natural world, people and place have been informed by historical imagery. Nicola is particularly interested in visual records created during European voyages to Australia and the Pacific in the 18th and 19th centuries, which she researched in depth during her PhD at the ANU School of Art. Her further investigation of the collections assembled during the d'Entrecasteaux voyage to Australia and the Pacific in the late 18th century focused on the movement of plants and animals between Australia and France at this time. Nicola’s work is held in several public collections, including those of Parliament House, the Canberra Museum and Gallery, the ACT Legislative Assembly and the ANU.

Melbourne-born Bern Emmerichs graduated with a Diploma in Fine Art from the Phillip Institute of Technology. In a prolific career spanning almost 40 years, Bern has exhibited as a ceramic artist across Australia and internationally, with her work receiving multiple accolades. Bern’s output is diverse, embracing painting on ceramic tiles, mosaics, design and public artworks. Examining the socio-political issues of colonial Australia, her work is concerned with the truths and myths of the Australian story. She combines narrative elements with nature to create elevating metaphors that affirm the humanity, humour and philosophical depth of personhood. The three walled works created for So Fine celebrate women in historical narratives.

Linde Ivimey was born in Sydney and obtained a Diploma of Fine Art in both printmaking and sculpture at the Claremont School of Art in Perth. Linde considers herself a visual artist, and she is well known for her use of eclectic materials, often incorporating bone, tooth and skin – primarily that of birds, sheep and fish – into large-scale statues and small, detailed figures. She draws upon many skills, including welding, cooking, mould making, taxidermy, weaving, woodcarving and sewing. Her works are held in many private and public collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria and a number of regional galleries around Australia.

Scottish-born Valerie Kirk is an artist and tapestry weaver based in Canberra. She completed degree and postgraduate studies at Edinburgh College of Art and Goldsmith’s College, University of London, followed by a Masters with Honours at Wollongong University. The experience of migration has been a prominent theme in her work. For Valerie, there has been both physical and psychological movement between Australia and Scotland over 30 years, to connect with family, friends and community. Her research has revealed emotional concerns of disconnection, loss, lack of deep rootedness, feelings of transience, longing and nostalgia. Her practice includes small, detailed and personal works, as well as large-scale commissioned pieces and combines her love of art and textiles.

Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Nusra Latif Qureshi lives and works in Melbourne. She attended the National College of Arts in Lahore and later finished her Master of Fine Art at the University of Melbourne. Nusra’s practice encompasses small, highly detailed paintings and large-scale digital prints, and engages with visual histories of the South Asian region as well as Australian culture. Her work investigates little known histories of colonial eras, questioning established narratives and engaging with the politics of representation. She employs complex layering, fragmentation, erasure and juxtaposition of visual material, pulling apart and reconfiguring found patterns to construct new narratives. Nusra’s work features in several private and institutional collections around the world, including the British Museum.

Carol McGregor is a Wathaurung woman born in New Zealand, who has lived and worked in Brisbane for the last 35 years. Carol has a Bachelor of Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art, Queensland College of Art, and is a PhD candidate in Fine Arts at Griffith University. Carol’s studio-based research and art practice is driven by a need to unearth and ‘visually activate’ histories and memories. Creating and wearing her family possum skin led to her investigation of the material culture of possum skin cloaks and rugs in South East Queensland, and this has become an integral part of her practice. Through her work she uncovers and better understands her family’s history, and contributes to its ‘untelling’. In doing so, she is able to redress suppressive outcomes of assimilation that undervalued her culture, identity and history, and reveal culture that has been hidden, ignored and silenced. Carol’s work features in private and public collections around the world.

Pamela See (Xue Mei-Ling) was born in Brisbane and has a Bachelor of Visual Art, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University and Master of Business (Communication Studies), Queensland University of Technology. She is a PhD candidate at the Queensland College of Art. Pamela’s technique and style bears resemblance to Foshan papercutting, a tradition of Guangdong Province, the home of her maternal grandparents. Her use of totemic symbols is also typical of traditional Chinese papercutting. Pamela’s compositions in So Fine depict a trichotomy of introduced, invasive and endemic species as allegory for the migrant experience. Her work is in numerous collections, including those of the National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia, Parliament House Collection, Australia Council for the Arts, Museum of Brisbane, and Art Bank.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.