Creative Crush: Carmen Glynn-Braun
March 13th 2019
Carmen Glynn-Braun’s artwork is seductively beautiful. From afar her installations lure you in with delicate forms and glints of gold, before revealing their greater stories, telling the difficult historical events lived by Indigenous Australians.
Recently taking out the TWT Excellence Prize for her graduating work at UNSW Art & Design, Carmen is going from strength to strength. Outspoken and deeply considered, she endeavours to tells the stories of Indigenous women past and present. Continuing the legacy of Indigenous filmmakers in her family to share and preserve the vital stories of her family and ancestors.
Alexandra Jonscher caught up with Carmen over coffee and chatted about her graduating body of work, where she finds inspiration, the important of storytelling and where she sees herself down-the-line.
Alexandra Jonscher: Hey Carmen! How you would describe your work to someone who has never seen it before?
Carmen Glynn-Braun: My work is predominantly about Indigenous female experience, past and present. I like to treat them like visual essays, so I’ll research stories, return to family experiences, or recount events and make a work from there. The work is always based on facts, I don’t like to put my own theories behind the work, it’s more like a documentary or an archive.
AJ: In regards to your work at the UNSW AD Annual, what was the story behind that work?
CGB: I looked into what has affected [Indigenous] women in the past but also what is affecting women now. I looked into the issues people were having trying to gain proof of Aboriginality – even people that were in large black families, whose siblings all had dark skin – trying to get their ticket to say they’re Aboriginal is actually really complicated. The way I laid it out was a symbol of historic solidarity, so that people understand that, that is what Aboriginal people look like post-Assimilation Policy and getting them to prove that now is actually really offensive. For me, I have quite fair skin. I come from Alice Springs and a lot of people there have really dark skin and haven’t necessarily been affected by the Assimilation Policy, so it’s about the politics of skin in our own community, as well as wider Australia.
AJ: What inspired you to tell these serious, dark subjects through such an alluring and gentle aesthetic?
CGB: For me, it was all about education being the best method for people to understand black issues. Obviously when people see an angry work, sometimes they go for it and sometimes they don’t. I feel like if you make something that has a soft palette and isn’t as overt it intrigues people. They have to go up and read about the narrative and that’s when they are educated about the issue.
AJ: What have been major influences on you lately?
CGB: This year I did a lot around my grandmothers story. During my honours year my family were actually making a documentary on her, which was called “She Who Must Obeyed Loved”. I was really lucky because we were all digging through our family history and her experiences and that included backtracking to her experiences having to leave Alice Springs. She had really dark experiences. She was moved [to Sydney] to the Malgoa House for Half Castes, which was a long way from home. The war had hit in Darwin and Alice Springs had a lot of mass killings and shootings happening and they took a lot of the kids out here, and then once they were here they took them from the Half Caste homes to be servants.
AJ: How does she talk about that experience?
CGB: She never talks ill of it. She’s very proud – not in terms of talking about that experience – but she is a very proud woman in terms of how she delivers herself.
AJ: How would say you that has that carried forward into your work?
CGB: Well, later on in life my grandmother started an Indigenous Media Association, Caama, and a TV Station, Imparja Television, to preserve culture through music, documentaries etc. That actually produced a lot of Australia’s top Indigenous filmmakers, including her Warrick Thornton and Rachel Perkins. It created this empire of creatives and preserved phenomenal amounts of ceremonies and cultural songlines. That’s something that I’ve really reached for in my work. Even though I’m resurfacing old stories, it’s really important for me that resilience is highlighted in the work and that we are celebrating elements of survival. Transgenerational resilience exists and there is far too much focus on transgenerational trauma. I think it’s really important for our generation to hold onto what’s been left and keep what is left strong.
AJ: Where would you like to see your work go in the future?
CGB: Well to be honest it would be amazing to be a full-time practicing artist. And to be honest, this last year it really feels like that would be possible.
You can catch Carmen Glynn-Braun’s work in Subverting the Intolerable Narrative, a group exhibition curated by Nikita Holcombe at Firstdraft opening on Wednesday the 6th of March. More info here