Kay Lawrence is a visual artist and academic. She studied painting and printmaking at the South Australian School of Art and tapestry weaving at the Edinburgh School of Art. She is currently Professor and Head of the South Australian School of Art. Lawrence’s practice as an artist is grounded in textiles, although her most recent work has also encompassed installation. She makes work for both public and private contexts and writes about contemporary Australian textiles. Her work has been exhibited extensively in Australia and overseas and she has completed a number of major commissions, including two works for the national Parliament in Canberra in 1988. For her work on the Parliament House Embroidery, she was made a member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1989.
Lawrence is particularly interested in exploring the relationship of textile practice to gender, place and community. She recently completed three major projects in collaboration with other artists and designers that involved consultation with Indigenous communities. Weaving the Murray was created for the Centenary of Federation of Australia and drew upon community consultation. The work explored the importance of the Murray River as Australia’s major watercourse, currently in crisis, and its symbolic role connecting the settler and Indigenous communities living along its banks.
In 2002 Lawrence was commissioned, along with designer John Nowland, to create a major public work for the glazed entry of the State Library of South Australia. The project, Text, Textile and a Coil of string, draws from research into European and Kuarna knowledge systems. It makes connections between textile processes and the transmission of knowledge. In 2008 Lawrence curated the exhibition, This everything water, exploring the symbolic resonances and material qualities of pearl shell as an item of trade and a sign for water in both the white and Indigenous communities in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.