Kaylene Whiskey

Born 1976 in Mparntwe (Alice Springs), Australia
Lives and works in Indulkana, Australia

White Bay Power Station


Kaylene TV, 2023
mixed media installation
Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney and Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain with generous assistance from the Australian Government through Creative Australia, its principal arts investment and advisory body.
Courtesy the artist, Iwantja Arts and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

Each of Kaylene Whiskey’s paintings, uniquely coloured and featuring a two-dimensional comic style alongside the ‘dot’ iconography of the Central Desert, is a celebration of her Aṉangu culture. As she works, Whiskey listens to rock ‘n’ roll, country and pop music, while the TV plays films or NITV (the National Indigenous Television channel) in the background, all of which she absorbs into a uniquely joyful body of work.

Whiskey moves effortlessly between comics, canvas, Saturday morning cartoons, and scenography with a versatility that is particularly poignant in Kaylene TV. Newly commissioned for the Biennale of Sydney, it is the first of her works produced on such an immense scale. Inviting audiences into a giant TV, the work points to the media construction of our contemporary, post television-era lives.

Featuring human-size cut-outs of icons such as singers Cher and Dolly Parton, as well as Whiskey’s own hybrid Black superheroes, kungka kuṉpu (strong women), in an ensemble cast, Kaylene TV is singularly delightful. At a time when all screens seem to be overflowing with stories of crisis, corruption and chaos, Whiskey’s insight into her own sparkling world, lived proudly on Country, makes space for a playfulness and spirit that disavows media narratives of inevitable demise.

Kaylene Whiskey is from a family of artists, including her grandfather Kunmanara (Whiskey) Tjukangku, a renowned senior man and artist. Whiskey started working at Iwantja Arts, located in the Indulkana Community on the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in north-west South Australia, after finishing school, making paintings that incorporated representations of local flora and fauna, as well as traditional bush foods. Over time Whiskey developed her unique approach to painting, with depictions of pop culture references sitting alongside elements from traditional Aṉangu culture. She favours painting prominent figures such as Dolly Parton and Tina Turner, as well as comic book characters like Wonder Woman in a celebration of heroic women and the sisterhood.

Read more about the 24th Biennale of Sydney, Ten Thousand Suns, by purchasing the catalogue here.