23rd Key jessica kease art exhibition artist
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Innovative queer mural artist Jessica Kease featured in Canberra exhibit

Queer stencil and mural artist Jessica Kease is among the creators whose work is currently featured in an exciting summer exhibit at the Australian National University in Canberra.

The Here I Am: Art By Great Women festival is showcasing the work of diverse contemporary artists, from photography to sculpture and more.

Kease, also known as 23rd Key, has a background including architecture and graphic design and has been an artist since 2005.

Her exhibited work, Fall From Grace, was created in early 2020, following the Australian bushfires and in the context of climate change and critical social change.

“I was thinking, almost obsessively, about these pivotal moments, the idea of a frozen moment in time and of capturing a single freezeframe of such an event,” said Kease.

The Melbournian learned stencil work as a teenager and has become one of the only artists to use these techniques on a large scale to create murals.

“I’ve been using the medium for about ten years, and like anything, you get a bit bored with it and want to push the boundaries,” she told Pink Advocate.

Her work has incorporated freehand aerosol painting as well as stencils to create innovative mural styles.

Kease said that Australian stencil artists are known around the world for a realistic style that goes beyond what might often be associated with street art, and this has influenced her work.

“I wanted to prove to myself that I was a good artist by creating photorealism,” she said.

“But it’s like solving a Rubik’s cube or an algorithm – once you learn the trick, you can perform it and it’s not that difficult, so different artists throw in different things to make it more interesting.

“You’ve got to have fun with it and make it your own.”

Kease said that she had few female peers as a developing street artist.

“I felt very isolated because it is a bit of a boys’ club,” she said.

“So a lot of my early works were about proving myself.”

Kease has developed her artistic style over the years and says she is looking forward to future exhibitions, possibly exploring elements of identity and sexuality in coming work.

“For most people, coming out is such a big realisation, but I don’t think we ever stop learning about ourselves,” she said.

“I’m hoping in the next few shows to do more on portraiture and identity in that sense, because it’s an interesting topic amongst our own community.

“There’s a whole world of possibility, and I’m excited to do something different again,” she said.

Here I Am: Art By Great Women artworks are on display 24 hours a day outdoors along Exhibition Avenue at the Australian National University campus until 28 February.

aMBUSH Gallery is also showing pieces by more than 30 talented female artists as part of the festival.

The gallery exhibition is free to the public, open 10 am to 6 pm weekdays and 12 pm to 5 pm weekends until 28 February.

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