Installation view of the <em>Melbourne Now</em> exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne from 24 March – 20 August 2023. Image: Tom Ross

Kait James

Kait James
(Wadawurrung, b. 1977, Melbourne. Lives and works in Melbourne)

Kait James is a Wadawurrung artist living and working in Melbourne. In her practice she asks questions relating to self, perception and the collective lack of knowledge of Indigenous culture and community, exploring her identity as an Australian woman with Indigenous and Anglo heritage.

Utilising punch needling techniques, James embroiders found materials such as souvenir tea towels that reference colonial settlement, subverting their original message with contemporary Indigenous imagery and references relating to language, native title and authenticity.

The KLF (Koori Liberation Front), 2023, combines fabric collage, punch needling, embroidery and rug tufting techniques. In a continuation of James’s exploration of kitsch ‘Australiana’ tea towels and other found materials, The KLF (Koori Liberation Front) subverts the loaded visual language of souvenirs with Indigenous imagery and pop culture references. In a scene that unfolds across a series of three panels, punctuated by the words ‘Unjustified & Ancient’, James reckons with a long history of cultural erasure and misconceptions of First Nations people in Australia.

KLF is also a play on words that takes inspiration from the popular, albeit controversial, 1990s British electronic band Kopyright Liberation Front. James is known for maintaining an idiosyncratic tone throughout her practice, navigating injustices with optimism and humour. Koori Liberation Front talks of emancipation, alienation and chaos, utilising found and historical motifs to navigate a space outside of colonisation.

James completed a Bachelor of Media Arts and Photography at RMIT University in 2001 but only returned to her art practice in 2018 following a long hiatus. Since then, she has held solo exhibitions at the Koorie Heritage Trust and Art Gallery of Ballarat. In 2019, she was the winner of Craft Victoria’s Emerging Artist Award and the Koori Art Show’s Reconciliation award. She was also a finalist in the Churchie National Emerging Artist award, the King Wood Mallesons Art Prize and the Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Award. Her work is held in the collections of the Koorie Heritage Trust, Geelong Gallery, Art Gallery of Ballarat, Monash University Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Victoria.