Cool Hunter Predictions: Ilona McGuire

We’re keeping an eye on these artists in the year ahead.

Words: Christina Chau

Ilona McGuire’s work is difficult to encapsulate because she has exploded across disciplines, scale, and materials over the last two years. McGuire is a Noongar and Kungarakan interdisciplinary artist whose training is in printmaking, painting and installation, although such a description does not capture the variety and magnitude of what McGuire is capable of. With a focus on familial ancestry, and tropes of colonial Australian pop culture, McGuire is interested in how storytelling can equally create lines of empathy and communion, as well as dehumanise and generate otherness through colonial narratives. 

Since completing a Fine Arts degree at Curtin University, Perth in 2021, McGuire has been awarded the Schenberg Art High Commendation Award at the national graduate show Hatched at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts in 2022, and she’s been collected by key galleries including Janet Holmes à Court, and John Curtin Art Gallery, both in Perth. The works collected by these galleries and institutions focus on her ancestral ties and wider emblems of Australia’s colonial culture by performing sharp juxtapositions to unravel race relations in ancestry and anthropology.

In 2021, McGuire collaborated with Whadjuk Noongar traditional owners and created a large-scale public drone light show for the Fremantle Biennale. This inaugural Moombaki (Noongar for where river meets the sky) performed first stories of Whadjuk Noongar Country at the Derbal Yerrigan (Swan River), Dyoondalup (Attadale Reserve) and Derbal Nara (Coogee Beach) with 160 drones lighting up the night sky for eight nights for epic large scale public audiences. With her collaborators, McGuire has channelled her connection to and fascination with First Nations Dreamtime to highlight that they are stories that are living and breathing today, that connect people to Country in contemporary cultures, rather than ancient stories that are untold. Witnessing McGuire’s momentum in the early stages of her career over the last two years shows that there no boundaries for McGuire, and that new horizons are on their way.

Featured image: Ilona McGuire, Our Place (detail), 2022. Mixed-medium and ochre installation, 5 x 5m. Photo: Jack Ball. Courtesy: The Artist.

This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 103, January-March 2023. 

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