Installation view of Kate Daw’s series <em>Love, work (prelude, aftermath, everyday)</em> 2020 on display as part of the <em>Melbourne Now</em> exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne from 24 March – 20 August 2023.    Image: Tom Ross

Kate Daw

Kate Daw
(b. 1965, Esperance, Western Australia. d. 2020, Melbourne)

Kate Daw was a significant figure within the local art community, having exhibited widely in Australia and around the world between 1992 and 2020. She maintained a feminist practice that considered cultural norms, history, authorship and language, and that often engaged with other artists, writers and designers, including her long-time collaborator Stewart Russell.

Love, work (prelude, aftermath, everyday), 2020, is Daw’s last series of works. They are a continuation of her Voices series, a progression of small canvases with typewritten texts – often paired with printed or painted works – that use the voice of modern writers (often, but not always, women) and the worlds they create. In this series, she employs the words of Katherine Mansfield, E. M. Forster, Muriel Spark, Iris Murdoch, John le Carré and Virginia Woolf to move us ‘from a place of embarkation and bomb sites, to places of cloister – caves and temples’.

Daw’s works frequently oscillate between the domestic sphere and the workplace; the everyday and the unreal; the personal memory and broader cultural experience. Through her art practice she continually explored notions of intimacy, care, nostalgia and vulnerability. As curator and author Juliana Engberg writes in the exhibition catalogue for the 2021 group exhibition All That Was Solid Melts at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki:

She has us settle momentarily at a kitchen sink, wanders us through a blitzed house and contemplates the breaking of dawn. These are singular snippets, thoughts and moments accompanied by the ever-resilient blossom of that hardy domestic flower – the geranium – and a ruined castle. Daw’s works, loving and luxuriating in the details, indicate the life ongoing, even while ruined and ravaged by circumstances.

At the time of her death in 2020, Daw was the Head of Art at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne, where she completed her PhD fifteen years prior. Throughout her career she participated in hundreds of exhibitions, including Unfinished Business at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (2018); Telling Tales: Excursions in Narrative Form at the Museum of Contemporary Art (2016); the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire (2014); Melbourne Now at the National Gallery of Victoria (2013–14); the India Art Fair (2013); and The Between Space, a major solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in 2006. She also received a number of grants and awards, including the prestigious Anne & Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship. Her work is held in major public and private collections throughout Australia and internationally.