Thursday, 26 April 2012

Vernon Ah Kee: austracism

Vernon Ah Kee - Works from the 2003 exhibition 'consent'

Vernon Ah Kee - Works from the 2003 exhibition 'consent'

Vernon Ah Kee makes powerful statements. He doesn’t beat around the bush, or lend his work to complying with niceties; he says it like it is. Ah Kee’s work critiques Australian race issues and asserts Aboriginal sovereignty. His work from his exhibition consent he had at the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane in 2003 illustrates this.

The work ‘austracism’ is particularly powerful, as Ah Kee's wordplay here is spectacular in saying everything through the vehicle of simplicity. He delivers one word to sum up the ostracism Indigenous people face and feel in a country that is racist towards them. Ah Kee is a master of being inventive with kerning and letter placement. As can be seen with the words faust, caustic and holocaust, most of the letters have very small spaces between them. However on the word austracism, all of the letters, black or grey overlap. The word is more tense and dense, dark and constricting. His manipulation of kerning is a very artful way of drawing attention to and from ideas to make these words emotive on a visual level as well being witty words of bold commentary.

As Garry Jones comments: “The impact (of such work) is at times dizzying, requiring a double-take to ensure that you have read it correctly. In many instances the possibility for parallel readings provides the poignancy of the work…”

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