Karen Casey is an Australian interdisciplinary artist with a career spanning more than three decades. She works across a wide range of media, from painting and printmaking to installation, video, performance and public art. Karen applies both an experiential and philosophical understanding of the interrelationships between various cultural and spiritual traditions and aspects of contemporary western science. A long-held interest in metaphysics informs her practice, which is often expressed through works relating to consciousness and interconnection. Her interest in both the human mind and social interaction has led to various immersive and participatory projects, designed to induce or illicit altered mind states or emotions in audiences and participants, that engender positivity, empathy and connection.
Karen Casey was born in Hobart, Tasmania and identifies as having Australian Indigenous/Anglo-Celtic ancestry. She briefly studied fine art at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education before taking up silver-smithing and part time graphic design. Moving to Melbourne in 1986 she began her arts practice in painting and printmaking and was soon became one of a vanguard group of ‘Urban’ Aboriginal artists, exhibiting widely in Australia and overseas throughout the late 1980’s and 1990’s.
Her early figurative works were often seen as raw, confrontational socio-political narratives on gender, environmental and social justice issues. Subsequent works saw a more contemplative, philosophical approach and appreciation of her indigenous heritage, resulting in images that are deeply rooted in spiritual and environmental connection. A pivotal point in her career came with Transformation, an immersive multi-sensory work, exhibited in the 1993, 5th Australian Sculpture Triennial at the National Gallery of Victoria. This ultimately saw her move away from painting by the late 1990’s and focus exclusively on installation and digital media.
Over the years Karen has developed a reputation for pushing boundaries with her continual experimentation resulting in some innovative techniques and practices. She has employed a variety of digital and analogue effects, to create complex multi faceted works that are visually elegant with her subtle use of behind the scenes technology. Her signature light works with glowing rear lit earth moulded fabric, often incorporating programmed lighting, soundscapes and other sensorial elements with water and smell, such her major work Dreaming Chamber, developed for the 3rd Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art Queensland Art Gallery 1999.
Collaboration & Public Art
Frequently working with architects, urban planners and developers, Karen has been both collaborative consultant and commissioned artist on various corporate and civic projects. In 2003 she was appointed artist in Residence for the City of Melbourne, working with the Urban Design branch, while also completing a Masters degree in Public Art at RMIT University. Significant public commissions include Reconciliation Place, Canberra, University of Adelaide, Melbourne Docklands, City of Whitellsea amongst others. She has been involved in numerous projects promoting Aboriginal Reconciliation including ‘Let’s Shake’, an ongoing public participation event initially conceived for reconciliation and later as a gesture towards peace and solidarity.
Collaboration is often key aspect and she has worked with a variety of artists and non-art professionals from diverse fields and disciplines. A long standing interest in understanding consciousness and the creative mind led her to initiate a research project with the Brain Science Institute at Swinburne University, Melbourne in 2004 then embark on an ambitious collaborative project, to develop an interactive interface for producing generative art from brainwaves. She is the instigator and artistic director of arts/neuroscience initiative Global Mind Project, launched in 2010 with the public performance event Spectacle of the Mind at Federation Square, Melbourne. This ongoing project has resulted in various exhibition, performance and research outcomes including ISEA 2011 Istanbul, the 2012 National New Media Art Award, Queensland Art Gallery / GOMA and Synaesthesia, MONA, Tasmania 2014.
Karen has participated in various Australian and overseas residencies and workshops and has regularly presented at symposiums and conferences. She has been involved in arts curriculum development, contributed towards government arts strategies and sat on peer review panels. In 2008 she took part in the Australia 2020 Summit at Parliament House, Canberra and in 2014 was invited to present at Open Innovations the Moscow International Forum for Innovative Development. Her work is represented in major publications, all State and National galleries plus numerous public and private collections both in Australia and internationally.