LAUNCH OF MY SOLO EXHIBITION AT THE ONJ
The official launch of my solo art exhibition at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre (ONJ) at the Austin Hospital took place on Friday evening 24th June 2022. It was an intimate opening with only a few face-to-face masked guests. COVID restrictions are still being practised in hospital environments and so this exhibition is only open to those who are patients, carers, visitors or staff at the Austin. My aim is that my art will calm their minds, put a bit of a pause in the busy day and take them briefly to the quietness and healing of nature.
I have some 20 paintings on display on level three of the ONJ along a beautiful corridor that takes you through to the Austin Hospital. These paintings are representative of my some of my early works through to my current ones and have descriptive text about the paintings.
This exhibition is a story of reconnecting - of finding myself through art … Back in March 2015, our garage door fell abruptly from our garage ceiling onto my head (some 200kg) resulting in a traumatic brain injury. During this time, I felt lost, disconnected from myself, others and my environment. I felt like I had slipped off a cliff and fallen down a crevice with no way out. Painting helped me find a way to reconnect with myself, to "unlock" my inner-self, thoughts and feelings that I found hard to express. Over some five or six years I started to regain my independence and feeling of self-identity.
Then, unfortunately, in April 2021, after a routine mammogram, I got the dreaded cancer diagnosis. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was struggling with my independence and feeling of self-worth again. This was exacerbated by further isolation as a result of COVID restrictions. I connected with an on-line art therapy group at the ONJ which helped me enormously. This provided an opportunity to explore painting styles, artists, some theory and a place to have fun.
I use quite a lot of symbolism in my paintings, reflecting on what I see, finding meaning and discovering insights into myself.
In one of my earliest paintings “Not-Knowing” I am both the figure in the bubble and the giraffe. The “giraffe me” is telling the “figure me” to be kind to myself. While the “figure me” is feeling alone, abandoned and lost. At this time, my life was dominated with rehabilitation programs to help recover from my brain injury. It was around this time that I started to “adjust” and begin the slow process of coming back to myself.
While participating in the ONJ’s Open Studio on-line art program I was cleaning my brushes and knives on a new large canvas – which actually became the final painting for this exhibition. I started to paint distant dark mountains perhaps reflecting some difficult emotions, then a path, some trees and fields. As I progressed, I started to add “life” to this painting; sheep, some grasses, and light flickering over the trees and the path. I was finding light and hope as I painted. In some places I cut back even deeper to the under layers of paint, perhaps in recognition of “owning” all the emotions I have experienced on this incredible journey of “Finding Me” through art.
In this final painting of the exhibition “GOING THERE”, I am particularly drawn to the path that winds through the painting into the distance. To me it depicts my growing confidence in the journey ahead of me, and the “tools” I have gained along the way to help me through the ups and downs of life.
I stepped back from the painting and realised that this had been my journey through the making of this exhibition.