Skip to main content

Ticketed entry is in place to safely manage your visit so please book ahead. Need to cancel or rejig? Email bookings@npg.gov.au

Menu

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.

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.

1Beach, 2018. 2Couple, 2018. Both by Leah King-Smith.

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.

1Baby, 2018. 2Studio, 2018. Both by Leah King-Smith.

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.

7 portraits

1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5 . Pearl King (née Annie Pearl Rigby) by Tom King, reproduced by Leah King-Smith .

Related people

Leah King-Smith

Related information

Marilyn Ball, Albatross, 2018 (detail) by Linde Ivimey
Marilyn Ball, Albatross, 2018 (detail) by Linde Ivimey
Marilyn Ball, Albatross, 2018 (detail) by Linde Ivimey
Marilyn Ball, Albatross, 2018 (detail) by Linde Ivimey

So Fine

Contemporary women artists make Australian history

Previous exhibition, 2018

This exhibition features new works from ten women artists reinterpreting and reimagining elements of Australian history, enriching the contemporary narrative around Australia’s history and biography, reflecting the tradition of storytelling in our country.

The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery

The Gallery

Explore portraiture and come face to face with Australian identity, history, culture, creativity and diversity.

Plan your visit

Timed ticketing, location, accessibility and amenities

Support your Portrait Gallery

We depend on your support to keep creating our programs, exhibitions, publications and building the amazing portrait collection!

We would like to thank our partners.
© National Portrait Gallery 2020
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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.