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Leah King-Smith

Born: 1957, Gympie, QLD
Works: Brisbane
Bigambul people (NSW/QLD)

Artist statement

I have created this series, Dreaming Mum again, in response to the So Fine curators’ invitation to present work about my Aboriginal (Bigambul) mother, Pearl King, by way of my photographic layering technique. In recent bodies of work I’ve done about Mum, I present her as an animated ‘spirit being’ in order to ‘capture’ the essence of her as a youthful and powerful force of nature. To create playful avatars of her for the Dreaming Mum series, I studied photos of her as a young woman that were taken by my father, Tom King.

Dad was a keen family photographer who developed and printed his medium-format black and white negatives. This series presents a few of the highlights from this collection, both as reproductions, and as a series of large-scale, layered photomedia interpretations. Philippa King (my sister and the family historian) has added handwritten stories, displayed with each picture, which help to broaden our perceptions of the originals and give us a glimpse into the conversations she had with Mum.

In my interpretations of the original photos of Mum I have again returned to my photographic practice of working with layers and curved, interpenetrating edges. I am drawn to challenging the camera’s entanglement with colonial imperialism, and the way the lens as canonical device interprets and filters worldviews. In my use of camera, mirror, scanner and photo editor, I choose to layer and sometimes distort multiple lenses and perspectives. By weaving photographic moments and places together, I am constructing a web of connections – of associations that expand the view, as it were, beyond the foreground/middle-ground/background relationships of a one-lens perspective. I could say that my work is photography dreaming. In museum catalogues and libraries, photographs are more often contextualised within limited temporal terms. In my work, veins and threads are like the warp and weft of woven fabrics, where patterns of interconnection and interrelationship construct dancing forms and ideations. Mum is in the fabric of Bigambul Country. She is simultaneously mother, free agent, lover, model and majestic power.

Reading, 2018 by Leah King-Smith