Reflection: mindshare Exhibition 2021
By Jo Withers
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During October, as part of Australia’s mental health month, mindshare welcomes the public to exhibitions across the city of Adelaide showcasing visual works by local artists living with mental health challenges. In 2021, the exhibition includes profound and personal works from Life Without Barriers’ Living Arts program, Neami National’s Neami Arts and fourteen practicing artists connected to mindshare.
The mindshare Exhibition opened at a community event on the first of October as the displays were unveiled in a celebratory first night across selected venues. The City Library, Hutt Street Library, Tynte Street Library and North Adelaide Community Centre all housed parts of the collection and the entire exhibition can also be viewed online at https://mindshare.org.au/mindshare-exhibition-2021/
I visited the City Library and Hutt Street Library and felt that they formed the perfect backdrop for the artworks. It is disconcerting to see the pieces enforce their powerful messages in spaces usually renowned for quiet and yet, they resonate so effectively within these confines. There is something succinctly normalising about displaying the eclectic pieces in this way, amongst people going about their business, reading, borrowing books and accessing resources.
At the City Library the exhibition was emblazoned across two rooms. There were many stand out pieces for me within this space. Initially, it is hard to ignore the imposing pieces created by Stevan Howison and Christina Lauren. These heavily textured pieces are stitched, strung, ripped and slashed, the anger and disappointment palpable within the materials and shades. The works are unashamedly large, provocative and attention seeking, as Lauren states about her work, ‘Their importance to me is unwavering, and reflects a frightening yet important time in my life and self-evolution.’
In contrast to these stark statement pieces, yet sharing the same space, are brightly coloured, calming works by Mali Isabel, Kimberley Radford, Catherine Pallin, Lydia Craig and Paula Karvouniaris. In different ways, these artists harness nature, light and self-awareness to explore healing and the strength of inner peace. As Karvouniaris says, ‘the nature she cherishes in return frees her mind and nourishes her freedom and emotions.’
Somewhere between these styles sit the quieter monochrome pieces displayed by artists such as Nigel Matejcic, Anastasia Comelli, Zoe Blundell and Billie Larsen. Though similar in tone, the motivation behind these works is not the same. Matejcic creates his striking pieces ‘non-symmetrical with the intention of Love. They don’t ‘add up’. I Be in the moment’. Comelli’s works are sometimes cluttered and confusing, sometimes minimalist and bare expressing, ‘the shifting emotions I face identifying as a queer woman’. In a similar vein, one of Blundell’s stunning pieces incorporates eight different portraits, the same face expressing a myriad of sentiments which Blundell finds therapeutic to create, ‘I draw to process and relax.’ Larsen’s work however, is subtle and complex, the thorny branches intertwined above the forest deer who seems more dead and wooden than any of the surrounding trees was one of my favourite pieces among the collections.
In Hutt Street, the exhibition occupied two opposite walls within the same large room. Here, I felt immensely drawn to Kaitlyn Davison’s digital prints, especially, ‘I Am My Own’. I loved the premise here, the portrait of the artist covered in the ghost-like sheet, the elements which remain hidden and those which are revealed. As Davison states, ‘The ghost provides both vulnerability and protection in these spontaneously created images.’ Another artist whose work shines within this space is Nate Hutton. I loved the simple beauty of the continuous lines and fragmented portraits in Hutton’s thought-provoking work, simultaneously inspiring and vulnerable. As Hutton explains, ‘Art is a strong catalyst for expression and awareness in the mental health healing journey.’
Online, the collection achieves a symphony of diverse messages as all pieces are brought together in one space. Artists such as Emma Sullivan, Claire Morrison, KJ Hepworth, Matthew Shaw, Taylaa, Phillip Miller, Craig Finnis, Luke Hunter and Audrey van den Heuvel highlight aspects of daily life with mental health challenges. There is light, dark, traditional expression, digital technology, light strobes, brush strokes, abstract fantasy and stark realism. There is a small, tangible part of every mental health journey, celebrated, reviled, embraced or crushed across the various mediums, a piece we can all relate to, a part of us which feels seen.
I deeply apologise to any artists I have failed to mention. It is not that your pieces were not striking or powerful but only that I have very limited space to explore them. I also realise that those I did mention, I barely did justice to, briefly touching on their importance without delving deeper as every one of the pieces invites us to do.
Instead, I implore readers of this piece to see the works for yourselves, in person if you are able to, or access them online. Deconstruct their meanings, investigate what their message means to you as they speak differently to each individual. Give them your time and bask in each individual piece in all its glory, emotional dexterity, and confronting realism. Art speaks to each of us differently and every one of these pieces needs to be heard.