Words: Louise Martin-Chew
There has been a palpable excitement about Kyra Mancktelow since well before she graduated from Queensland College of Art, Brisbane in 2020. While she continued studying toward an honours degree in printmaking this year, the momentum in her practice has also continued to build. Her potential was noted at the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA) in August 2021 where she was acknowledged with the Emerging Art Prize for Moongalba II (a series highlighting historic cruelty at the Aboriginal mission on North Stradbroke Island/Minjerriba). This award was followed by a Special Commendation at the 2021 churchie national emerging art prize (Brisbane) for No Perception (featuring the uniforms worn by the First Fleet – offered to clothe First Nations peoples). Most recently she won the annual Printmaking Award from Queensland College of Art.
Features of the artwork she makes – in media from prints to sculpture and fabric – have caught the attention of collectors, curators and institutions. Her subject matter is drawn from Indigenous histories and churchie art prize judge Rhana Devenport noted, “Through her beautiful prints, objects, and body adornments, Quandamooka artist Kyra Mancktelow addresses the fraught legacies of a traumatic and complex colonial past.” However, the printing methods she has innovated, and her technical expertise, have also engaged people. Nick Smith, director of N.Smith Gallery in Sydney which represents Mancktelow said, “Her unique printing technique is incredible – so crisp and perfect.”
At the heart of her success is a solid work ethic. “I was able to be in the studio and experiment,” she says. “I really caught on to Tarleton, the fabric used to clean the etching plates. I played on that metaphor as an attempt at assimilation, rubbing that cultural identity away. I love clothes and identity. Both the works for churchie and the Telstra awards work with the concept of removal of their Indigenous identity.”
Smith said, “Garments in Kyra’s graduate exhibition and artist proofs from the Moongalba series were acquired by a major public collection. We have so many collectors who are keen to support her. She is one of the most engaging artists I have ever met. Only 24, she is grateful for every opportunity.”
Also in 2021, Mancktelow has delivered four solo exhibitions – for Bundaberg Regional Gallery, Logan Art Gallery and Outer Space, all in Queensland and N.Smith Gallery in Sydney, and her 2022 program includes exhibitions at Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art, Melbourne Art Fair and N.Smith Gallery. Over the last four years she has also undertaken public art projects for Brisbane City Council (2021), Ipswich City Council (2020), University of Queensland (2019) and Logan City Council (2018).
Mancktelow does what sustains her, continuing a family legacy of sharing story. “My father’s Country is Quandamooka and my mother’s is Mardigan and South Sea Islander,” she says. “My whole life, growing up, I’ve had a strong connection to Country. It’s really close to me. I have aunties, uncles and cousins who tell me their stories and have very strong culture. I grew up learning about things, knowing about things: they taught me, they told me. Now I’m in a place where I can research that topic and that subject and tell other people.” Her audience is listening hard.
Mancktelow’s solo exhibition Gubba Up shows at N.Smith Gallery, Sydney, from 26 January to 26 February 2022; she will also present work at Melbourne Art Fair, from 17 to 20 February 2022 and in Sequence, at Redland Art Gallery, Cleveland, from 20 March to 8 May 2022.
Featured Image: Artist Kyra Mancktelow. Portrait: Russell Shakespeare.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 99, January-March 2022.