Visual arts course proves a game changer for Kate

Aug 18, 2020

Enrolling in a visual arts course at TAFE SA helped Kate Oakenfold find a new passion in life after her sporting career came to an end.

A former international cricketer, Kate has traded bat and ball for more eclectic tools as she establishes herself as a visual artist specialising in sculpture and installations.

Early signs suggest the transition has been a successful one for the artist, who received two key awards at the 2020 Helpmann Academy Graduate Show in March.

Kate was presented with the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Award ($5000) for an emerging female artist and the ACE Open Residency Award, providing her with a studio for 12 months.

She says her initial experience at TAFE SA, studying a Certificate III in Visual Arts, changed her life and motivated her to pursue an arts career.

“I hadn’t done much art before and I wanted to find a course where I could meet people and learn something new, so that’s why I did the course and I just fell in love with it,” Kate says.

“I loved the family feeling at TAFE SA, I didn’t feel like a number and I appreciated the one-on-one time with the lecturers.

“The facilities are excellent and most of the lecturers are practising artists which I found quite inspiring.”

After completing the Certificate III, Kate enrolled in the Bachelor of Creative Arts (Visual Arts), a dual award offered by TAFE SA and Flinders University, and graduated with honours in 2019.

Her graduate artwork, entitled Totem Grove, was a dramatic large-scale installation featuring a sheoak stump on a bed of eucalyptus leaves with a steel armature rising up from the stump, covered in four kilometres of red wool.

“It was quite a healing piece for me. I was exploring how nature can heal us,” she says.

The “interconnectedness of the living world”, particularly the relationship between people and nature, is at the core of Kate’s work.

Raised in Sussex, England, Kate says a childhood spent playing in the woodlands has left a lasting impression.

In creating her sculpture and installations, she works with found items and materials of contrasting textures and weights.

“I like the juxtaposition of manmade and organic materials in my work, so I’ll use steel and concrete with trees and leaves. The use of thread or wool is a current interest that plays on the theme of connection” she says.

After delays due to COVID-19 restrictions, Kate started her ACE Open residency last month and is looking forward to making the transition from student to full-time artist.

One of her first paid gigs is a public art project in Hindley Street, an opportunity provided by the Helpmann Academy and SA Power Networks for emerging artists. The group project will take shape over the next six months.

As part of this month’s SA Living Artists (SALA) Festival, ACE Open will feature each of its artists in an online video profile. Visit the website ( to find out more about Kate’s work.