Celebrating Women in the Arts
To celebrate Art Basel Hong Kong and International Women's Day, we turn to one of Hong Kong's rising female visual artists Katie Vajda. Her work looks into topics including the plight of domestic helpers, representation of the female body and observations of our current culture. Her work is set to turn her into a serious power of influence.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I'm from Sydney and have spent the last 9 years in Hong Kong. I transitioned from a career in media and advertising to art after gaining my degree in fine art photography at Hong Kong Art School/RMIT Melbourne. As well as my art practice I also shoot select commercial work and I am currently Co-Director of the Justice Centre's, Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize which is going into its 5th edition this year.
In 3 words, how would you describe yourself?
Curious, collaborative & determined
If you could have one super power, what would it be?
To travel back and forth through time…although one thing I particularly like about photography is that I can make time stand still.
What inspires your work?
In a general sense, I would say observations and research about the human condition. I am also endlessly fascinated by the politics of the 'domestic' and the 'body'. From an aesthetic perspective, I tend to draw from my advertising background and commercial references in current visual culture.
What are you hoping to achieve with the powerful messages behind your work?
My art work blends performance and photography and aims to question boundaries, whether internal, physical or societal. The resulting work is a reflection of this experience and explores conceptual ideas often around liberating the body from discursive pressures and stagnant visual representations. I hope to engage and challenge the viewer by expressing contemporary stories that reflect our current place and time.
As a female artist, what advice would you give to other women entering the art world?
Be self-driven and continue to make things happen, whether that is in the shape of art works or building communities. It's a long game and it's very important for women to stay in it. Find a mentor. Also authentic connection and collaboration is very important so try to 'turn up' whenever you can.
I also high recommend getting out there and speaking to like-minded women. This year Asia Art Archive is hosting a 'Women in Art' forum in Hong Kong which will discuss what it means to be a woman artist in the Hong Kong art world.
Tell us about your new body of work and how you became involved with Camel Assembly.
Camel Assembly is an international community of creative female leaders who gather to make change. I was introduced to Co-Founder, Keshia Hannam, just over a year ago when we collaborated on a special project for International Women's Day 2017. I fell in love with her energy so we decided to do something together which involved further developing the concept of one of my earlier portrait series called '20 Girls'. The series explored gender stereotypes and together we adapted it to feature portraits of '20 Women'. Twenty Hong Kong women who pledged their commitment to driving gender equality in their respective fields. The campaign was called #theboldwarrior and was activated across events in New York and Los Angeles.
This year we are teaming up again to create an evocative photo-essay and interview series. Over the past month I have been documenting four female activists who are focused on societal issues, working daily to create positive change in their communities. Camel Assembly will also be hosting an event and engagement space for International Women's Day at Eaton Workshop, complete with panel discussion, breakout workshops, DJ's, a film screening and exhibition of the photography series. What I love about their events is that they are all about inspiring real action.
What's next for you?
I am obsessed with plastic at the moment so I am starting research and testing for a new fine art series, working title – 'Macro Plastic'. We also have some very exciting plans for the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize this year, the call for entry launches in June.