This is happening right now and I figured I better take some time to explain it and what I have been doing. At the moment, I am exhibiting a series of works 1.5 years in the making, but much longer in the dreaming. SHE is being exhibited at Gallery 4017 in Brisbane.
This exhibition tells the story of the way I moved through my mental struggle mindscape examining periods of overwhelm, anxiety, depression, disassociation, hope and acceptance. The statistics of mental health issues in Australia today are startlingly high. This one in particular,
“Over two in five Australians aged 16-85 years (43.7% or 8.6 million people) had experienced a mental disorder at some time in their life” (https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/mental-health/national-study-mental-health-and-wellbeing/2020-21)
requires a closer examination and discussion. I think that it is important to start discussions and continue to talk about these issues. I hope by shining a light on my own journey, I can take away some of the shame and blame that is placed on people in periods of mental health distress and make it easier for other people continue these valuable conversations.
SHE is an exhibition that looks at my journey of mental struggle through 12 pieces that form a narrative. Remember how in school, you would get those pictures you had to put in order, first to make complete sentences, then to develop stories? Well this is like that. Each piece on its own tells of a pivotal moment along the story and together they reveal my journey.
SHE was always this character. She was a wild child and expressed herself far better than I ever could. But she was also pain filled and angry and confused and overwhelmed. I hated her. I spent so much of my life ignoring her and trying to cut her out of me, that I completely overlooked the idea that if I acknowledged her and listened to her for a moment, took her hand and walked with her, that perhaps we could both find a better way through.
And that is basically what I learned to do through some painful therapy where I continued to draw this character in sketchbooks in order to express how I felt when my words failed me.
She never has a face or you never see her face, or her face is obscured in some way. I have had people comment on this before, but for me, it is akin to masking. We all mask to some degree. Every day. We hide the way we feel so we don’t disturb the social constructs. We don’t want to appear weird or out of control and also there is a lot of shame and blame placed on showing our emotions. I didn’t want people to think or see that I was out of control. I wanted to make their lives happier and better, and the way I felt was just depressing for everyone around me so I masked most of it. So, you will never tell from her face how she is feeling. As with people, you need to look deeper for clues.
A lot of the work is naive in style. I wanted it to be simple for the most part, like a child had done it. In a lot of ways, a child DID I guess. The palette is basic. It is overrulingly red, white and black. Everything else is overwhelmed by those colours as they often were in my mental mindscape. You will notice as I release descriptions of each of the pieces that I don’t stick to any one type of media. It doesn’t suit me and it certainly didn’t suit my mental state. I found that when I was stuck in my creative practice, the best thing I could do was switch it up and try something else. So each of the pieces I have put out there is in the medium I chose that felt the most, “right” for what I was doing.
I won’t put any of the photos in here just yet of the series in order. I will leave that until after the exhibition because it kind of spoils the experience to see them altogether, but here are the titles in order.
I will also be releasing blog posts on each of the pieces over the next couple of weeks as the exhibition progresses. I hope I see you there and if I don’t and you are reading this, I hope you find something here that makes you think about and question the way we see, react to and treat mental health and mental struggle.
Please do know that if you need help, crisis support is available
24 hours, 7 days
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
or check out some of these links…
Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
Black Dog Institute https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
And this is also a really good article by Australia Counselling outlining different mental health resources in Australia and what they do https://www.australiacounselling.com.au/top-mental-health-organisations/