As a sculptor, Bohunnis has produced immersive installations using wax, silicone, linen, leather and latex in contradictory combinations with metal, and each other. The results are room-sized ensembles of sculptures – material gestures – charged with allusions to the body, sex, futility, violence and control. Staged in tense relation to one another, Bohunnis’ objects often take on anthropomorphic (human-like) or bodily qualities: a diagonal steel shaft impales a plump latex pillow, forcefully pinning it to the wall; a block of pink jelly wax bows mournfully in the thin grip of two tarnished metal rods; stainless steel hooks stretch a taught plane of latex like freshly flayed skin. Bohunnis undercuts the utility and functionality of her chosen materials, instead casting their given meanings and associations into a state of flux – aluminium undulates like a landscape, steel sheets are draped like textile, silicone transforms into flesh. “The way I see materials and identity is very similar. This one thing is served to you and it appears all the same; a tube is a tube, a piece of linen is a piece of linen. But when you add or subtract from it, it creates a different conversation…it can transform into many different things.”[1]

[1] Kate Bohunnis, unpublished interview by Belinda Howden, Adelaide, 5 July, 2021, 1:11:02

In a recent in-conversation with Kate Bohunnis and Erin Davidson, Project Officer at AGSA hosted by Station, Melbourne, Bohunnis described her mother as an influential person in her life. Her mother was a very creative person, and as a child Kate had lots of freedoms – she was even allowed to draw on the walls at home!

  • What’s something you would like to change about your bedroom that your parents won’t let you do?
  • If there were no boundaries and you knew you wouldn’t fail, what is something you would like to do or create that you can’t do now?

Kate Bohunnis explores a variety of materials including metal, textiles, printmaking and sound to communicate her ideas. Select two very different mediums to create a work of art about the same idea.

While Bohunnis’ work is about personal experiences and identity, her ideas also develop through experimentation with materials. Kate is always willing to give anything a go where materials are concerned. She created all the elements of edges of excess, including the metal fabrication and took risks with using silicone, which can sometimes be a very unpredictable medium to work with.

  • Challenge yourself to create a work of art using a single material. Experiment with everyday materials such as paper, toothpicks or fabric. Test its limits – tear cut, bend stretch, twist or overlap your chosen material.
  • Make it move! Create kinetic sculpture about a personal experience or memory.

Gender stereotypes continue to be an area of interest for Bohunnis. In a recent in-conversation with Bohunnis and Erin Davidson, Project Officer at AGSA hosted by Station, Melbourne, Bohunnis discussed how she still found it surprising how she was often ignored or dismissed when purchasing materials for her work. In the 2021 exhibition fill me up and make me useful at Station, Melbourne, Bohunnis contrasts soft textiles with sharp steel.   

  • Create a work of art using two materials that have opposing textural qualities. How will you combine the two materials so that your work is cohesive or unified?
  • Take it further: investigate other contemporary artists who explore or challenge gender stereotypes in their work, start by looking at British artist Grayson Perry. 

The Gallery’s Learning programs are supported by the Department for Education.

This education resource has been developed in collaboration with ACE Open and the Art Gallery of South Australia. Written by Belinda Howden with contributions from Louise Dunn, Kylie Neagle and Dr. Lisa Slade.