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Australian Painter, Kate Daw Has Passed Away



VCA Art head of painting and Australian painter Kate Daw has died, Kate was confirmed dead on September 8, 2020.

Kate Daw died at the age of 55 with family, friends and loved ones left in total devastation.

Kate is known for her kind and generous spirit, She was a woman who worked with rigorous desire to interrogate contemporary art, VCA’s former head of school will be deeply missed by artists, curators and academics alike.

Daw was a seminal arts figure in Melbourne for many decades, as an artist, educator and advocate, most recently holding the position of Head of VCA Art at the University of Melbourne’s Southbank campus.

She contributed to a contemporary art dialogue with great vigour, and mentored and collaborated with many artists across her broad career, showcasing her huge heart and sensitivity.

Gertrude Contemporary described Daw as ‘a friend to all who made her acquaintance,’ while Max Delany, Director, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) said, ‘Her art, life and friendship enriched us immeasurably’.

Daw’s practice was primarily conceptually focused, inspired by ideas found in literature, design and culture and their intersection with the domestic sphere and notions of authorship and feminist history.

Seamlessly sliding between mediums – painting, sculpture and text – Daw’s works typically engaged personal memory, nostalgic recollection and female experience.

‘One of the things I’m really interested in is memory and fragmented narratives. Proust, who I’ve used often in my work, is a great example of that – the idea of a single memory spanning out to fill 12 volumes of work is fascinating to me,’ she said in a 2018 interview.

Dr Kate Daw prepares an installation for All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed exhibition at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, 2018. Photo Drew Echberg.

After dropping out of arts school in Perth aged 18, it was moving to Melbourne that helped Daw’s career take root. She completed her undergraduate at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), then started her MFA at the Glasgow School of Art, after being awarded the 1995 Anne and Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship, completing it at RMIT on her return to Australia in 1997

Daw gained her PhD at the University of Melbourne in 2006, examining how narrative functions in contemporary art with a thesis titled The between space: narrative in contemporary visual practice.

Daw returned to the VCA as a sessional staff member in Painting in 2000, eventually taking on the role as Head of Painting for five years, before moving into the head of school position in 2018. She was also appointed Associate Director for Partnerships and Projects for the school at that time, and was responsible for nurturing philanthropy.

She was dedicated to creating an environment that was ‘dynamic and agile’.

‘My vision as Head of VCA Art involves seeing – and believing in – culture as a force for positive change in the world. In practice, this will mean active promotion and lobbying for the impact and reach of culture and creativity as catalysts for positive societal change,’ she said in an interview, when appointed in June 2018.

Fellow artist and colleague Professor Jon Cattapan writes of Daw: ‘Kate was a true all-round influencer. She knew how to connect ideas and people and this special skill was instrumental in her work developing and mentoring the next generation of artists. She taught them to think deeply about how and why art can engage socially and politically and still be a personal and aesthetic undertaking. She allowed them to have fun with their ideas.’
However, it was her words to Paul Dalgarno that same year that showed her true empathy for her students: ‘I always get nervous, and not just about showing my own work. As Head of Painting at the VCA I get nervous every Graduation Show on behalf of my students, especially around that moment when all the work is revealed and its success or failure is judged on how it looks. That’s quite a stressful thing. You’re very invested emotionally when you’re exhibiting. In my case, if I wasn’t feeling nervous or on edge, it would probably mean something was wrong.’

Daw loved collaborating and often involved drew on a community of artists, writers, designers and arts institutions in her art practice.

‘I’ve always been really interested in art’s ability to communicate social and political issues in a way that can empower people, and Glasgow was all about that. I felt like I’d arrived home. My mother is Scottish and the man I married is from Glasgow, so I’ve just got this affinity,’ she told Dalgarno.

Tributes Floods….

Kate Daw was generous, witty, gorgeous, an artist, a mum and, among many other things, the best boss I ever had. I can’t believe she’s gone.

— scorporate hellfare (@had_a_gutful) September 7, 2020

And, amazing artist-educator, artful and fun collaborator and scholar. rest in power, Kate Daw

— Katey Coleman (@kateycoleman) September 7, 2020

Vale Kate Daw

An IASKA artist at Kellerberrin during 1999, Kate worked on stories, fragmented memories, extracts of conversation, paintings, photographs and videos, all used in the exhibition Notes and Sources, on the changing identity of women living in rural communities.

— International Art Space (@spaced_IAS) September 8, 2020

We bid an incredibly sad farewell to our much-loved friend and colleague, Dr Kate Daw, a shining light to all who knew her and a champion for art and artists.

— Faculty of Fine Arts and Music (@vca_mcm) September 8, 2020

Kate has been a wonderful colleague and inspiring leader @unimelb A great joy to work with and learn from, filled with care, fun and passion for young artists and the community. Kate is a great loss to art education in Australia and beyond @edumelb Vale, Kate Daw.

— Katey Coleman (@kateycoleman) September 8, 2020

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