17th October – 14th November

Dark Swan Exhibitions Presents Imaginary Territories – A Feminist Surrealist Visual Art Exhibition

Following its acclaimed 2018 debut Dark Swan Exhibitions takes over Packenham Street’s PS Artspace in Fremantle from 17 October to 14 November, with ‘Imaginary Territories’, delivering its unique, multi-disciplinary exhibition platform of critically engaged WA artists and performers for a WA audience.

This Feminist Surrealist exhibition features significant new contemporary works, by five established, female WA artists, commissioned by the Department of Local Government Sports and Cultural Industries. The works include film projection, sound, installation, photomedia, and visual art by Jo Darbyshire, Lucille Martin, Rebecca Patterson (33 POETS), Dr Toni Wilkinson, and Dr Kelsey Ashe who is also the curator.

Kelsey Ashe: Purification Of Soul Acrylic on Canvas 1.8mx1.2m

‘Imaginary Territories’ is an odyssey that travels within, yet is global in outlook, acknowledging the centenary of the emergence of Surrealist modes of artistic inquiry from Europe 100 years ago, which spread worldwide, right to the ends of the earth, into the far-away Antipodes.

Explaining the inspiration behind the exhibition Dr Ashe said, “In an era of environmental/world crisis and political divisiveness, to conceive new realities has become critically important. The exhibition explores the concept of a ‘territory’ as a domain of the inner world – a representation that expresses an ‘internal truth’. Through this Surrealist lens, the artists’ territories are simultaneously real and imagined, explored into being; a place where both conscious and subconscious realities are envisioned. The artists are asked to consider their “inner topographies” and to question how this can assist in overcoming the earthbound borders, barriers and displacements we find ourselves in this modern era.”

Dr Ashe says her interest in Surrealism stems from the movement’s aim of striving to reveal the sacred within the mundane. “The exhibition is also timely in that 100 years on from its first emergence in Europe, Surrealism’s influence and legacy is experiencing unprecedented levels of revisionist attention from curators, artists and writers worldwide, particularly for women artists who have found its strategies for artistic enquiry essential to their practice.”

A series of special opening night performances will include the ‘birthing’ of a life size ‘exquisite corpse.’ Exquisite corpse, from the original French term cadavre exquis, is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence by being allowed to see only the end of what the previous person contributed. The performance will involve four of the WA women artists working on a section of a woman’s body (head, torso, womb, feet) independently for three months, only revealing the body in its entirety for the first time as a live installation on opening night. It will remain a feature of the exhibition for the four-week duration, with a film of the live performance also installed for viewers.

The piece will capture the spirit of the original surrealists’ motivations to access collective consciousness through collaborative making and highlight both individual and collective practice via an insight into the inner worlds, thoughts and imaginings of these women artists during an unprecedented era of global upheaval and change.

2020 has been a major year for international recognition of Dr Ashe’s work. She returned from the USA in Late January just as the COVID lockdowns began, after placing second in a juried International Women in Surrealism Exhibition; a remake of the notorious ‘31 Women’ exhibition staged by Peggy Guggenheim in 1943. Ashe’s submission, her film ‘Pearls and Blackbirds’, commissioned for the Fremantle Biennale in 2019, was immediately then shown at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh and invited into two group shows in New York at the Barrett Art Centre and at Site: Brooklyn Gallery. She was also appointed as the Co-Editor of second issue of ‘The Debutante’, a UK Based Arts Journal devoted to Contemporary Feminist Surrealism. That issue, ‘Feminist Surrealist Odysseys’ also features her work and will be published in September.

Kelsey Ashe: ‘Those are pearls’, film still, Pearls and Blackbirds film 2019


“The work I’ve received recognition for is an important WA story, about the lives of brave and purposeful women of different cultures that came before us. This International interest in my film is personally rewarding, but moreover, it reflects the curiosity that the world has about our part of the world, our stories and complex histories.”

Following on from the success of the first Dark Swan iteration in 2018 ‘Contemporary Tales of the Gothic Antipodes’, Dr Ashe, curator says that support shown for the exhibition reflects both the critically engaged nature of the artists involved and the important and timely themes being investigated by the artists and performers.

“In circumstances of unprecedented scarcity for funding in the arts, I am very grateful to the Department of Local Government Sports and Cultural Industries for supporting the commission and presentation of five female Western Australian artists to create significant new contemporary visual artworks for this exhibition” Dr Ashe said.


EXHIBITING VISUAL ARTISTS : Jo Darbyshire, Lucille Martin, Rebecca Patterson (33 POETS), Dr Toni Wilkinson, Dr Kelsey Ashe

Dark Swan Quartet featuring 45 String Harpist Michelle Smith, Violin, Arco Base and Soprano
Spoken Word Performance by First Nation Playwright Barbara Hostalek

Kelsey Ashe is a contemporary artist and writer, who has developed a signature aesthetic and prose that draws from themes hidden, mysterious, esoteric and surreal. Kelsey Ashe has a Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD Art) which directs a depth of knowledge into her contemplative works, delving into allegorical, historical and mythological narratives that are often emphatically feminine.

Exploring the symbology of cultures, both ancient and modern, local and global, Ashe seeks resonances from previous era’s; sensing traces of stories or beliefs from place, to perceive perceptions or concerns for contemporary culture. Ashe’s practice-led research has traversed print and illustration, textiles and cloth, photography and film, performance and painting, with each new idea finding its unique expression of form.

“My creative works are responses to stories or mythologies that intrigue me…usually because of a hidden, esoteric element and often with a historical/contemporary or East/West dichotomy. For example, the constructed Exotic; where multiple layers of myth, story and culture have dwelled in one landscape or place, transitioning and interacting over time, has been a central concern. I am drawn to human expressions of the universal mysteries in graphic forms and patterns, favouring semiotic readings over literal or formal ones. The mystery of life on both a cosmic and human scale delights and fascinates me and my practice-led production follows this intrigue at will…” (Kelsey Ashe, 2019)

Dr Kelsey Ashe has sold and exhibited works in Australia, USA, Germany, UK, Dubai, Ireland and Scotland. She is a Lecturer in Design and Art at Curtin University Western Australia.

Imaginary Territories:

PS Art Space, 22 Packenham Street Fremantle Western Australia

VIP Opening: Friday 16 October – Invitation only

Exhibition runs: 17 October – 14 November 2020

Curated by Dr. Kelsey Ashe http://www.kelseyashe.com , @worldofashe