Kate Ballis is a Melbourne-based photographic artist whose work explores the theme of seeing the unseen. Her colour-drenched artworks employ infra-red technology to isolate particular hues within the spectrum to create images with a unique palette and otherworldly feel. In doing so, Kate invites us into a new way of seeing the familiar, by bringing her own unique understanding of a particular place.

Kate’s new work explores mythology and feminist icons, looking to ancient sites and regions, making them seem foreign but more powerful than the earth we know.

After admiring Kate’s practice for a number of years, Marita invited her to join the Gallerysmith stable in late 2019. Liminality is Kate’s first exhibition with Gallerysmith.

In our Q&A below, Kate shares some insights into her practice and what we can expect to see from her in 2020.

GS: We heard you recently arrived back from a photo-shoot in Palm Springs, can you tell us a little bit about your trip?

KB:  It was a quick trip, only 8 days and we returned home just a few weeks ago. I used to spend more time in Palm Springs, but my visits there now are a continuation of my earlier series (Infra Realism), so it doesn’t require as much time or new research.

GS: When in the United States, what are you shooting and what type of camera do you use?

Kate Ballis shooting in Palm Springs, 2020

KB: I photographed a lot more architecture this time, including a John Lautner house, and also went out to Joshua Tree to hike and capture more images. It was the first time I’ve been to Joshua Tree on my very own and aside from driving on the opposite side of the road to get there and back, it was nice to take it at a very slow pace and be entirely silent in my explorations of the park.

I have a new higher res camera (Sony A7RIV) converted to full spectrum and I use infrared filters on the lenses. This camera will give me the opportunity to print at a super large scale if the opportunity arises which I am really excited about!

GS:  How are you dealing with this period of self-isolation? Has it encouraged you to think differently about your studio practice? 

KB: A day after we got back from the USA the Australian government announced a compulsory self-isolation period for people who had returned from overseas, so although we didn’t technically fall within this category my husband and I complied anyway. I was grateful we could be at home with our doggies! To be honest it’s not too different from my regular weekly routine, once I’ve shot photographs on location I come back to the studio and edit them, proof photos and read books on the topics I’m researching for my projects.

I had overseas and interstate research trips planned for this year, which will now be postponed, but it means that I’ll finally have time to edit my Atlantis series, which I have been working on for three years, and I now have 19,000 photos that I need to wade through to turn into discreet stories! The more I had shot, the more overwhelming the task has become to edit them, so I’m glad to have the time to immerse myself in the project. Without being able to travel to the destinations I wanted to photograph, I’ve also started shooting a component of my Avalon of the Heart series in my own neighbourhood.

The premise of the Avalon series is that wherever you are in the world, the presence of the Lost Land of Avalon can be felt in your heart. On each sunny day I’ve wandered through streets, parks and fields in my neighbourhood (Heidelberg) and captured scenes that feel like Avalon 🙂 I’m also excited about diving deep into all the books I have on Avalon and Atlantis and seeing what further inspiration arises!

Proofing strips from Liminality, hung up in Kate’s home studio

GS: And what about the next 6 months? 

KB:  Firstly, I will finish proofing Liminality, in the next week. I am always working about three years ahead so I will also be finalising works in the Atlantis series, my new Infra Realism series from Palm Springs, and a new Avalon of the Heart series based in my neighbourhood.

GS:  And finally, Kate, tell us about the upcoming release of works from Liminality.

KB: Liminality has a darker, more brooding palette than my other work. It was shot on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

It is a series which reinstates Scotland’s mythological fairies as statuesque powerful goddesses, rather than the diminutive fairies we are more familiar with and that were written into stories such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It considers the myth of Cailleach who created the mountains with fire and carved them with ice.

I have proofed these works and can’t wait to see them at full scale.