Red & White
an exhibition about trauma loss & grief, war & violence
31 October – 23 November 2013
St Nicholas Gallery
9 Bear St Mordialloc, 3195 03 9580 1192 www.stnicholasmordi.org.au
hours : Mon-Thurs 12-3 pm Sat 10-1 Open during church services.
not open Melbourne Cup weekend or public holidays
Saturday November 23, 3-5pm: White Ribbon Event
0417 526 636
“I paint, work in clay, construct, draw, take photos, work with mosaics and make videos. I practice my art in many ways and places – in the studio, in the community, through writing and publication of papers, teaching, through community and public art projects and professional development training. I have exhibited widely.
I was awarded a PhD from Victoria University, Melbourne for research into the effects of arts practice to recovery after trauma, loss and grief (sexual abuse) and a Master of Fine Arts from the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne for research into the artist’s response into the impacts of the First World War. I have built much of my creative life upon the artist’s role in expressing and responding to the most profound human experiences.
My research into trauma, grief and loss has led to acclaimed installation exhibitions that speak to those profound feelings which are so hard to describe in words. I continue to work closely with victims of sexual abuse and family violence.”
Artists delve into shadowy places. We inhabit spaces and are fascinated by what is repulsive to others. Bones, death, human behaviours and materials provide artists with endless opportunities for metaphor.
These are mostly intuitive, rather than intellectual works that grew out of my work exploring, acknowledging and expressing trauma, grief and loss through art.
The impact of the First World War and family and sexual trauma, and how art and the artist can be of service to recovery are my deeply held concerns. These concerns culminated in a Master of Fine Arts Degree (2004) and PhD (2010).
Some of the work here is informed by my interest in family violence and its relationship to intergenerational trauma, whilst others are touched by my creative relationship with those who were abused in their childhood, and as adults. Abuse happens mostly in places where individuals should feel and be safe, and is a violation by those who distort their responsibility to protect and care.
Childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault and family violence and the memories of these experiences lurk in the shadows – unspoken and unacknowledged, yet their affect is long lived and profound. It is a deadening of the human spirit. One adult victim of childhood sexual abuse said to me “The act is almost forgotten. But the feelings surrounding it and impact of it are never forgotten, they are with us forever”. That sentiment informs this exhibition.
My work and practice is not put forward as a place of promise or certainty. Rather, it is a kind of anthropological fieldwork, one of recording, identifying and imagining. Like the journey of trauma and grief, creativity is not linear but rather a process of wondering and wandering.
Where trauma affects victims’ capacity to verbalise, and therefore recover from the experience, art gives expression to feelings surrounding loss and grief, including anger and the desire for revenge, as well as survivors’ aspirations for a better future. Artworks emerging from this shadowy world provides a catalyst for survivors to see what has been “dreamlike” or “tangled” memories, to express what has been inexpressible, to give voice to the their feelings and importantly, invites them to step out of the shadow and into the light.
I see my role as an artist is not to lay bare the full truth of the trauma and loss, rather through work veils and softens, the viewer is able to look at an object of beauty rather than one of decay. It is a kinder, sympathetic and metaphoric means of gazing into the shadowy reality of trauma, loss and grief. The viewer can engage with the subject because expressing it through art has made it possible to look into it, rather than being forced to look away through horror or despair. The softening enables the gaze and the gaze evokes empathy.
The capacity of art to hold both the present and absent, attraction and repulsion, beauty and sorrow, and the visible and invisible worlds are amongst its very significant offerings for expressing the complexity of trauma and grief. Art can express a perception of the physical world as well as what is “below the threshold of perception”, as Beuys describes it, and provides the artist and viewers with the means to convey and relate beyond the narrative, which can only ever be part of the story. The effect of trauma and grief can also be addressed.
ANNE RIGGS Artist 2013