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SALA Brings Kate Bohunnis Another Chance To Shine

Photos: Naomi Giatas

When Kate Bohunnis won the acclaimed Watson Award in February 2017, it set her free.

The gong – for most promising artist at Helpmann Academy’s Graduate Exhibition – is a big deal.

“It was really exciting. It’s enabled me, even on a minor platform, to talk to other people, to be noticed, and from that I’ve had various opportunities,” Kate says.

The financial backing didn’t hurt, either. Kate took home $7500 for her abstract work The Line.

“She is a very creative woman so I think that idea of play and finding a truer sense of self I learnt from her at a very young age.”

“It meant I could say, ‘Okay, studying and spending all of my money on art materials is justified’. It means I can play with new materials, don’t have to worry so much and can throw everything into this work and see what happens,” she says.

“Often that’s when something really beautiful happens.”

Kate grew up all over Adelaide (“I’ve lived in 30 houses!”) and says her mum was an inspiration.

“She is a very creative woman so I think that idea of play and finding a truer sense of self I learnt from her at a very young age.”

Creativity was a persistent calling.

“During high school, I thought I had to be really serious and settle for a job that I didn’t want to do. That was my plan – until I finished study and realised that in fact that’s not me at all.

“I tried a couple of other degrees before realising that. Then I thought ‘f**k it, I’ll be me’.”

Kate is now in her final year of honors at AC Arts.

She’s aware that life as an artist in Adelaide can be challenging.

“It’s a very vulnerable process. You’re constantly expressing yourself and if no one is reacting to that you feel a bit crazy, shameful and a bit doubtful.”

“Particularly in the current climate where the arts have been docked heavily and are seen as a lifestyle choice.”

She says that’s simply not the case.

“You’re often perceived to be batty or a bit stupid if you want to be a visual artist. People think it should be something you just do on a Sunday.

“There’s a view that the arts or a creative pursuit isn’t a necessary function but if you think about it and break that down … if you take the arts away, you’re left with almost nothing around you.

“You can’t listen to music, you can’t watch a film, there’s no design of magazines, websites or business. There’s nothing.”

Within the arts community, however, she says people are very capable, aware and inclusive.

Many wonderful people shone their light on Kate’s creative path.

“I’m fortunate to have had some amazing lecturers at AC Arts. As well as doing their job, they’re amazing artists and they really care. I also have friends who are great artists. Conversation with them inspires me.”

Being an artist can be a solitary emotional roller coaster.

“It’s a very vulnerable process. You’re constantly expressing yourself and if no one is reacting to that you feel a bit crazy, shameful and a bit doubtful.

“It’s great to have that acknowledgement that people are listening.”

Kate will appear at Nexus Arts during SALA to introduce the piece she’s working on for her final honors projects.

“I’ll give some insight and background into what my practice is about. I’m doing a print instillation with sound, lighting and potentially a bit of sculpture. It’s looking into the idea of the productive power of not knowing.”

People can see the final product in November when it’s on show at the Light Square Gallery.

Post-study?

“I’ll definitely look at doing some overseas residencies, get out into the world and see what’s happening and where I fit in to that.”

SALA Pecha Kucha is a part of the West End After Dark at Nexus, Thurs 10 August, 7pm to 9pm. SALA runs from 1 to 31 August. 

You can see Kate’s work on her Instagram.

Smiley Fritz

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