Queensland College of Art students have won international acclaim with a new exhibition that tackles some of the most pressing issues of the 21st century, from environmental sustainability and social inequality to gender politics.

QCA doctoral candidate Rachael Wellisch and Honours graduate Emma Gardner have collaborated onWild Remembering, now showing at Brisbane’s OneSpace Gallery after successful exhibitions interstate and abroad.

Art and activism

Both artists use salvaged materials and natural, plant-based dyes to create sustainable works that incorporate weaving, performance and photography.

“We are conscious citizens and feel like changes need to be made both locally and globally,” Rachael said.

“Despite decades of activism around environmental damage and social inequality, motivating change remains challenging due to exclusion, exhaustion, frustration and fear.

“Art is our expression to make comments on these concerns and we feel it is fundamental in creating an empathetic focus.”

A global platform

The pair were able to undertake international artist residencies and exhibit their work in Europe last year, thanks to industry connections provided by QCA faculty and a grant from Arts Queensland.

Rachael, who graduated from a Bachelor of Fine Art (Honours) in 2016, said the pair were thrilled to have a global platform for their work.

“We had a mutual desire to expand our opportunities and extend our reach and networks beyond local audiences,” she said.

“We felt so blessed to receive this funding and connections to an international gallery, it really brought home to us the importance and scale of the project we were embarking on.

“As early career practitioners’ this really validates your practice and opens the door to a new range of opportunities.”

Industry connections

QCA lecturer Jenny Watson, an acclaimed artist with an international following, helped the pair forge connections with an independent gallery in Vienna.

“I was starting to work with a new gallery in Vienna and met German artist Claudia-Maria Leunig who had started an independent space called Basement,” she said.

“I am pleased that this introduction developed into such a productive collaboration.

“Exhibiting in Europe is highly competitive so it was not a fait accompli, but I was thrilled when I heard that the project was going ahead with support from an Arts Queensland grant.”

Remarkable opportunities

Rachael said that studying at the QCA had opened up a wealth of opportunities.

“Jenny has been a major player in the art scene for decades, both in Australia and internationally, and she has been able to give us great advice on navigating the art scene,” she said.

“It is definitely one of the advantages of studying at QCA – all of the studio lecturers are practicing in the field, and their knowledge and inspiration is priceless.”

Wild Remembering is showing at theOneSpace Galleryuntil 30 March.