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 2013, Kammer studied oil painting under Robin Eley and life drawing under David Kassan at The Art Academy in Adelaide and was subsequently offered a mentorship by robin eley for one year.
after several years of suffering from an undiagnosed health condition, Kammer was finally diagnosed with the incurable, chronic pain condition endometriosis in 2015. in 2017 kammer experienced more significant difficulty with her health when she developed sepsis, a life-threatening condition, which led to urgent surgery and the discovery of another chronic condition, adenomyosis.
in between her diagnoses, kammer developed her first body of work with a view to exhibiting. kammer’s large and sometimes controversial oil paintings were born from her experiences with her assigned female health issues and developed with the contribution of hundreds of women across the globe who shared with kammer their own harrowing endometriosis stories. inspired by the techniques of freud, the fearlessness of saville and the passion of bacon, kammer debuted her collection of works in a solo exhibition, which she titled ‘nescience’ for the ignorance that surrounds her condition, at light square gallery in adelaide in july of 2017.
As Kammer’s presence has expanded in the fine art industry, so has her activism and position within the endometriosis community. kammer currently holds the title ‘endo champion’ with the non-profit group endometriosis australia for her continual efforts to raise awareness on a global scale.
Kammer asserts that her activism plays a key role in her artistic practice. She uses her social platforms to invite other sufferers to contribute to her mission by sharing their experiences and she feels that the paintings she creates, while inspired by her own life and experience, represent the trials of millions of people facing disability and the accompanying oppression and discrimination.
in 2018, Kammer exhibited a new collection of paintings as well as a video installation at studio bowden in south australia as part of the south australian living artists festival. ‘the host’ was an exposé on the vast impact living with chronic health conditions has on its host outside of the physical realm.
kammer has collaborated with celebrities Lena Dunham and Caitlin Stasey, both female activists and artists, to open up a dialogue about body autonomy and female power. in 2019 kammer was the keynote speaker at the worldwide endo march high tea event in adelaide where she shared her own story and discussed the impact that antiquated yet commonly used language patterns can have on minority groups who suffer with endometriosis or any typically assigned female condition.
kammer has been shortlisted for a number of highly regarded australian art prizes including the shirley hannan national portrait award 2018 and was long listed for the doug moran national portrait prize in 2017. in 2017 kammer won the national self portrait competition, the ‘myself prize’ and took out people’s choice in the emma hack art prize 2018 and the sala awards 2018. Ellie was the recipient of the Arts SA Richard Llewelyn Deaf and Disability Arts Grant in 2018 for her project ‘Art Prizes’ to assist her in creating entries for the major art prizes.
kammer is set to show her latest collection of works in a solo exhibition ‘septation’ at Praxis artspace in novemeber/december 2019 and moving forward, will be researching and discussing gender issues within the disabled community.
Latest News —
Kammer will be the keynote speaker at the Adelaide Endo March High Tea at the Stamford Plaza on March 30.
Upcoming Solo Exhibition
Kammer will be showing her 2019 works at Praxis ARTSPACE. November 14 - December 13.
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
Redland Art Awards
Kammer's portrait of Lena Dunham, 'Property of Lena' has been selected as a finalist in the Redland Art Awards.
SALA Bluethumb Award
Kammer has won the $3000 SALA People's Choice Award hosted by Bluethumb for her entry 'Endometriosis (Volatility)'.
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.