Katherine Gailer and Maria Pena have such a connection, it’s easy to assume they grew up together in Colombia. The two artists, who have just launched their first joint exhibition, Inhabited: A Magical Realism at fortyfive downstairs, met while studying Fine Art at RMIT.

Pena moved to Melbourne after receiving a scholarship to complete her doctorate. Like so many immigrants, Gailer came to Australia to travel, but fell in love with Melbourne and stayed to complete her Masters.

“We knew we had a connection as female artists, as Colombians and as immigrants,” says Gailer. “And we wanted to go deeper. We wanted to look at how the commonalities of the human experience shape the way we connect as a society.”

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Their first collaboration began through a workshop series developed with Multicultural Arts Victoria called What Is the Colour Of Your Roots?. Gailer and Pena invited people from different backgrounds to participate in discussions and writing sessions. “It was completely experimental,” says Pena. “But, as an artist, you find things by experimenting.”

What they found eventually became a series of oil paintings and drawings which they have put together for Inhabited. The exhibition shows their shared passion for magical realism and super-realism.

Inhabited is the visual narrative of the immigrant’s hybrid culture,” Pena says. “It is a visual exploration of characters in transitions.”

This exhibition invites audiences from all backgrounds to step forward and see themselves. “We are kind of re-constructing and disintegrating characters and places,” Gailer says. “Each piece is like a little world, inhabited by people who are inhabited by myths.”

Inhabited: A Magical Realism is showing at fortyfive downstairs until February 13. Entry is free.

fortyfive downstairs
45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Tue to Fri 11am–5pm
Sat 12pm–4pm