Lee Harrop. Photo: Lynn WebbThe Accidental Resident

Lee Harrop by Annette Davis
Kalgoorlie was meant to be a three day stay for Lee Harrop, to recover from a non-stop journey along the south coast of WA, and to rest when Albany and Esperance were full of Christmas holiday visitors. Three years later, Lee and her partner have graduated from their tent to a motor home and plan to stay for a while in WA’s gold mining capital. An ‘accidental’ resident, Lee Harrop now has Kalgoorlie’s core – the gold mining industry – as the inspiration for her art practice.

Originally from New Zealand, Lee completed a Masters of Fine Arts at the Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design, in Auckland. Working in whichever media is most appropriate to conveying her ideas, Lee explains, “I am interested in demonstrating arts’ ability to offer an experience that also becomes a form of criticism, and more specifically, by using language as the artwork in ways that disrupt or cause a disjunction of language.”

Her artwork is mostly site-based or context specific, and her current research focuses on the gold mining industry. As a casual employee in the industry and a local resident, she is in effect embedded in her subject.

Nonbeliever, 2014. Neon, perspex, paint, glass and electricsOver three years, Lee has been able to observe the dynamics within this regional centre and its main economic driver. Those observations, research and analysis feed her artistic practice.

Lee works hard at maintaining her life as a practising professional artist. She researches opportunities for contemporary artists and conscientiously responds to advertised expression-of-interests and invitations to participate, in state-wide, national or international arenas. Advice from Artsource helped create links to the wider WA art network and led to Lee hosting the Basel exchange artist in Kalgoorlie for a week in 2013. Lee also maintains connections with the New Zealand arts scene by entering awards and exhibitions.

In Kalgoorlie, Lee is gradually developing contacts with other practitioners. She has forged productive connections with tradespeople who she has engaged to produce components of her artworks, and she’s found their feedback on her work instructive and relevant. Twelve months ago she started renting a studio, which has not only given her much needed space for art making, but also, as a permanent address offers the potential for Lee to develop more links with local artists and the wider community.

Although she misses the opportunities for critical art engagement and discussion that may be available in the city, Lee is quite comfortable with living in an isolated town, having mostly lived in regional or rural areas. She travels to as many arts events as time and finances allow, and approaches these opportunities with a similar level of organisation and diligence that she applies to her art practice. “I capitalise on any trip by combining it with as many art related activities as possible. I pack so much in I now type up an itinerary!”

Lee protects the hours available to her work and is clear thinking about how to progress her ideas and how to develop audiences for her art, wherever they are. Kalgoorlie is now not only a place to stay, but the bedrock of her current art practice.


Annette Davis is an artist and freelance curator. During the past two decades she has managed arts projects in Perth, Kununurra, Karratha and Albany, where she currently lives.

This article featured in the Artsource Newsletter, Winter 2014.