Above: (Video) Makers Who Inspire - Ellie Kammer by Henry Thong of Those Creatives
(Image) Endometriosis (Conjunction) 2018
Oil on panel 64 x 54cm
Ellie Kammer was born in 1991 in Adelaide, Australia.
In 2012 she became acquainted with artist Robin Eley. Kammer went on to study oil painting under Eley and life drawing under David Kassan through Eley's school, The Art Academy, in Adelaide in 2013. After demonstrating passion and technical ability in the workshops, Robin Eley offered Kammer a year long mentorship where studied oil painting technique.
In 2016 Kammer enrolled in a mentorship program with David Kassan and Shana Levenson through the Art Crit Academy.
Kammer first came to appreciate the enormous impact one artwork can inflict upon its viewer when she was researching works by artist, Gottfried Helnwein. In particular, his instillation 'Selektion - Ninth November Night' which featured large scale photographs of young children assembled in a line, as if they were waiting to be sorted like they were in concentration camps. Helnwein's works had a profound impact on Kammer and upon discovering his raw depictions, she adopted the view that an artist has a responsibility to address and discuss issues within their work.
In 2015 Kammer was diagnosed with a chronic, incurable disease that she regularly requires surgical treatment for - Endometriosis. The disease's impact on the artist is significant and the immune system component to the disease saw Ellie nearly lose her life to a blood infection in early 2017. Kammer was also diagnosed with a similar chronic pain condition, Adenomyosis, in 2017 which can only be cured by removal of the uterus, forcing her to consider the difficult notion of sacrificing her fertility for an improved quality of life.
In 2016, Kammer's frustration with Endometriosis took toll on her mental health. The condition is under-researched, rarely discussed and information on the disease is scarcely reliable. These factors make living with the condition an isolating experience and Kammer found herself at a crossroad where she saw two options; give up on life and let the disease swallow her whole or utilise her artistic abilities to relieve her of emotional chaos and educate people about the disease. she opted for the latter and began to compose her own 'Ninth November Night'.
Taking inspiration from the techniques of Freud and Saville, Kammer created a series of ten paintings during 2016 and 2017 and exhibited them in her first solo exhibition of paintings, which she titled 'Nescience' for the general ignorance that surrounds Endometriosis. The Nescience series attracted widespread attention and discussion within national and international media and it saw Kammer take on the title of 'Endo Champion' for the non-profit organisation, Endometriosis Australia. The title enables Kammer to access verified information on the disease and the latest updates in research, which empowers Kammer and shapes her work.
Kammer's solo exhibitions include Poor Unfortunate Souls (2012), Nescience (2017) and The Host (2018) in Adelaide, Australia.
Group exhibitions include Six Contemporary Painters (2016) at Floating Goose Studios, Works on Paper (2018) at Scott Livesey Galleries, Armadale and the Loreto Spring Art Fair (2016, 2017) at Loreto College, SA.
Kammer has been a finalist in the Emma Hack Art Prize (2017), Wyndham Art Prize (2018), Redland Art Awards (2018) and was selected as a semi-finalist in the prestigious Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 2017. Kammer won the Myself Prize, a national prize for self-portraits, in 2017 and took out the People's Choice prize in the Emma Hack Art Prize (2018) and the SALA awards (2018).
Kammer currently lives and works in Adelaide, SA.
Latest News —
Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award
Kammer has been selected as one of the 34 finalists in the Shirley Hannan National Portrait award - A biannual $50,000 portrait prize. Winner announcement -October 26
SALA Bluethumb Award
Kammer has won the $3000 SALA People's Choice Award hosted by Bluethumb for her entry 'Endometriosis (Volatility)'
Ellie Kammer in Conversation
Join Ellie Kammer and renowned fine art photographer Mark Kimber at The Host where they will discuss Kammer's recent body of work, her approach to a fine art career and her health. August 25, 11am, Studio Bowden, Bowden SA.
The Host Opening Reception
The Host - A solo exhibition by Ellie Kammer officially opens August 16, 6-8pm at Studio Bowden, Bowden SA. Opened by Logan MacDonald and sponsored by Delinquente Wine Co.
Redland Art Awards
Kammer's portrait of Lena Dunham, 'Property of Lena' has been selected as a finalist in the Redland Art Awards.
The first time I saw Ellie Kammer’s Endometriosis (Volatility) I felt a physical jolt of recognition. A body appears weary, blood seeping from wounds unseen. Here was a portrait not of a person but of an illness. Here was endometriosis. Here, therefore, was me.
A life lived with endometriosis is a life spent fighting for help. While the disease affects roughly one in ten women, it is still drastically under-researched, underfunded and misunderstood. There is no known cause, there is no cure. Treatments are invasive, expensive, and only ever stop-gaps.
Kammer has regularly used her own body to tell the story of endometriosis on canvas. In this new exhibition she goes one step further, creating a private viewing room to watch laparoscopic vision from one of her own surgeries.
The film acts as a parallel to Kammer’s more traditionally created works hanging nearby. The subjects on canvas, becoming more and more segregated and bloodied, speak of physical devastation. But these smaller works also address the psychological effects of the illness. The disease, actively invading and smothering its host both mentally and physically, cruelly projects a contradictory appearance of being well.
Kammer lists Gottfried Helnwein as a strong influence on her practice, particularly his 1988 installation Selektion - Neunter November Nacht. The 100-metre wall of portraits is an unflinching reminder of Reichskristallnacht (Crystal Night), and an examination of the attitude behind the roots of the Holocaust.
The effect of this work on Kammer is clear: a dogged ambition to bring acts of repression out into the public eye. Kammer’s works, also often large in scale, act as evidence not only of endometriosis itself but of discrimination against women more broadly – depicting our loss of agency and autonomy, in both sickness and in health.
Kammer’s exploration of endometriosis is evocative and political, and never more so than in The Host. The blood – circling through our bodies, scarring organs and damaging nerves – stains our sheets and our psyche. We garner the strength to leave our beds to seek help, but as our symptoms and pain are dismissed and ignored, the blood continues to follow us everywhere.
The Host, 2018
Ellie Kammer's Endometriosis (Imponderable) depicts a woman in repose. She lies on her back, legs bent and angled to the left, bathed in golden light. Only the barest sliver of her profile is visible. In lieu of regarding her face, our eye is drawn to the landscape of her body: the dark shadow that falls from thigh to pudendum, the delicate tufts of pubic hair, the organic swell of her breasts. It could be a peaceful image — were it not for the erratic rivulets of blood that mark her stomach and thighs. This painting, and all the paintings in NESCIENCE, can be understood as a provocation: they externalise the inner suffering of women, bringing to light a disease that, although rarely spoken about, effects one
in ten women.
Kammer peoples her work with poignant bodies rather than model ones: fleshy and blunt, with breasts, bellies and thighs that have a palpable weight. Subtly visible beneath the skin are bluish rivers of veins. These bodies are imperfect. Vulnerable. In them, we see Kammer's devotion to recording in unflinching detail the experience of endometriosis. These paintings are pain, made flesh.
Kammer paints in an almost sculptural way, manipulating the oils in short, dabbed marks or intuitive, arabesque curves. The vocabulary of her palette catches the light: butter-cream, rose madder, sienna, salmon red, the odd insinuating purple. Even her blues are light-filled. In each portrait, the eye is drawn to the blood. Rendered in viscous dabs and smears, the use of startling red and thick, soupy blacks serve as a reminder of the harsh reality of her disease.
At the heart of the exhibition are two self-portraits, resonant with troubling beauty. In both paintings, Kammer turns her face away from the viewer; in both paintings her eyes are closed. She paints herself not nude in the classical sense, but naked: exposed, vulnerable. Observe the thickly applied, suggestively broken paintwork, the intimately unfinished finish — this is self-preservation through expression. 'Distorted perspective', wrote photographer Grete Stern, 'will always give the effect of insecurity.' These portraits are both an expression of Kammer's insecurities and a gesture towards resolving them: the artist regards her own body, and perhaps, through the act of painting, arrives at a place of peace.