GROUND LEVEL, COLES COURT ADJOINING GALLERY 1
ETHIOPIA, BORN 1994
LIVES AND WORKS IN MELBOURNE
Atong Atem uses photography and video to explore migrant stories and post-colonial practices in the African diaspora. She has an ongoing interest in photography and portraiture as a vehicle to express culture and identity. The photographs featured in NGV Triennial are from an early series of portraits created by the artist. These works not only explore the various experiences and identity of Atem and her friends but also draw on the history of studio photography in Africa, most notably the practice of renowned photographers Malick Sidibé and Seydou Keïta, who were active in Mali in the 1960s. Atem’s photographs are all staged studio portraits. In each of the images her subjects are photographed against brilliantly coloured backdrops, and her sets are further decorated with intricately patterned fabric, furniture and abundant bunches of flowers, resulting in a riot of colour and pattern.
Atong Atem was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1994 and migrated to Australia with her family as a small child. She moved to Melbourne in 2014 and is currently enrolled in a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Honours, at RMIT, Melbourne. Atem began to exhibit her photography in 2016 when she was included in a group exhibition at Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne. The same year she was awarded the Melt Portrait Prize at the Brisbane Powerhouse. Since that time, she has participated in several group exhibitions, held five solo shows, and been awarded the NGV + MECCA Cosmetica M-power Grant in 2017, and the Light Work New York artist residency in 2018.