Vernon Ah Kee was born in 1967 in Innisfail, Queensland, and is a member of the Yidindji, Kuku Yalandji, Waanji, Koko Berrin and Gugu Yimithirr peoples. He lives and works in Brisbane. At the core of Ah Kee’s work is a constant and provocative investigation of race, ideology and politics. His practice is multi-faceted in terms of the media and processes he employs: from large-scale drawings of his forebears to text-based video works and installations such as cantchant, (2007) in which he reworked surf boards as ceremonial shields. Through clever puns and plays on words Ah Kee has fused the history and language of colonisation with contemporary black/white political issues to expose degrees of underlying racism in Australian society.
Ah Kee represented Australia at the 2009 Venice Biennale in the group exhibition Once Removed. Other group exhibitions include I walk the line: new Australian drawing, MCA (2009); Revolutions: forms that turn, Biennale of Sydney (2008); Indigenous Triennale National Gallery of Australia (2012); Everything Falls Apart, Artspace (2012); My Country: I Still Call Australia Home, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern art, Brisbane (2013) and Sakahàn: 1st International Quinquennial of New Indigenous Art, National Gallery of Canada (2013). In 2015 he will exhibit a new body of work at the 14th Istanbul Biennale Saltwater: A Theory of Thought Forms, curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. Recent selected solo exhibitions include Barack, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2011); Tall Man, Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne (2011); Hallmarks of the Hungry (2012) and Brutalities (2014) both at Milani Gallery, Brisbane. His painted portrait of Lex Wotton was a finalist in the Archibald Prize 2012.
Ah Kee holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours) and a Doctorate of Visual Arts from the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Brisbane. His work is held in a number of private and public collections within Australia and overseas. Selected collections include the Sprengel Museum Hannover, Germany; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth and the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane.
Australia, as a country, as an idea, as an ideal, as a social-political system, thinks of and believes itself, despite its history of racism and exclusion, to be essentially Good; I of course disagree. These drawings and what they represent are my evidence.
Vernon Ah Kee, 2004
Works by Vernon Ah Kee
Volume One: MCA Collection– Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) 2012
avoiding myth & message: Australian artists and the literary world– Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) 2009
MCA Collection: New Acquisitions 2006– Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) 2006
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