16 years after it was first broadcast, Kath & Kim continues its legacy as an Australian cultural touchstone. The satirical TV comedy, which ran from 2002 to 2007, revolved around two mother-daughter protagonists, it brought a microscope to their daily lives in suburban Australia, bringing with it an irreverent sense of humour which won the affection of the nation and a cult following. “Spending their days killing time in the local shopping centre Fountain Gate, and their afternoons in their back yard home reading trashy magazines with a flute of bubbly, the show is a realistic, all be it eccentric window into life of white working class somewhat bogan Australians with a heart of gold,” explains artist and fellow Australian Miranda Jill Millen.
“Australians aren’t particularly traditional when it comes to expressing our patriotism, a lot of us don’t even know our national anthem: ask an Australian to recite it and you will probably receive a vague tune with a few lyrics thrown in,” Miranda laughs. “But Australians do pride themselves on their humour, dry and often self-deprecating, we get a kick at laughing at ourselves. Kath & Kim held up a mirror to the life of many Australians, it was relatable, clever and iconic. A satirical commentary on the good and the bad of Australian culture. It laughed at us, and we laughed at them.”
Blending bone dry satirical humour with a celebration of “bad” taste, Kath & Kim’s influence filters through Miranda Jill Millen’s paintings. Like many millennial Australians, Miranda remembers a childhood spent “religiously” watching Kath & Kim. “Phrases from the show like ‘look at moi’ and ‘it’s nice, different, unusual’ became household phrases that me and my family still use today,” she explains. “My weekends actually did consist of going to Fountain Gate and having cappuccinos in the food court, so the show felt very personal to me.”
In a new exhibition across large paintings and small ceramic sculptures titled Miranda Jill Millen: My Kath & Kim, the artist holds up the TV programme as a source of inspiration. “Each of the works are re-creations from moments in the show, a celebration but also a commentary on Australian culture,” she says. “The work has been created through the lens of what is iconic about Australia, so there is a lot of Australian imagery that is familiar within the show. The work has really developed over the last six months, and I feel it’s a significant departure from my previous work. I’ve moved away from using text within the work, and created larger scale paintings with a greater sense of depth and detail.”