Image of Karen Mills

Karen Mills

in conversation with Cristian Tablazon

"I don't think I can speak for other Indigenous artists. In my experience, my work isn't necessarily recognized straightaway as Indigenous, as what mainstream audiences might think about Australian Indigenous art. I think that's changing a lot with contemporary artists and people becoming more educated about the diversity of art practice in Indigenous art. I feel like I can only represent myself and speak for myself. I have been recognized as being Aboriginal and that's okay. I mean, I know my own identity. But in terms of an art label, I don't think I need to be part of Aboriginal art in that sense. Just “contemporary Australian artist” is fine because, I mean, that's my story. I'm kind of not quite in a place of representation, having been dispossessed, through life's circumstances, of that cultural knowledge and experience that I would have received if things had been different. But I think I've perhaps reached the point where I can say my story is about being a Stolen Generation person. It's a combination of my experiences and ancestry, having lived and grown up in a non-Aboriginal family, but being Aboriginal myself. I have carried intergenerational trauma, and no doubt that is part of the emotions that are in my artmaking and working out my sense of belonging or not belonging, connections and the feeling of being disconnected.... I'm quite open to just being seen as a contemporary artist rather than being served an Indigenous label. That my practice is about art, rather... and then I'm a person of aboriginal heritage, but that's a part of my art. That's all part of my work."

Karen Mills

Image courtesy Tarnanthi 2021, Art Gallery of South Australia Photo: Sia Duff