Review: Behind Closed Doors
By Dina Ustovic
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mindshare is a creative community and online mental health publication. Reflections are by mindshare writers with lived experience of mental illness, specifically critiquing through a mental health lens. Content may contain triggering themes.
Explosive reds on a muted background that only draw you in closer is just a small taste of Sherida Kate’s latest moving exhibition, Behind Closed Doors. Described as using real fire and it’s imagery, Kate uses this to explore themes of innocence, domestic violence and recovery in the setting of a childhood bedroom. Bold and gripping, Kate has been able to capture the effects of such trauma that is relatable and yet also confronting.
Each piece in this exhibition allows the audience to study and understand the powerful themes that Kate tries to convey. The first five paintings are placed outside and are titled with striking names such as Red Flags and Gaslight, giving the audience a taste of what is to come. Splatters of eye-catching oranges and yellow hues; the plain black backgrounds allow the colours to visually stand out – clearly representing the outerworld conflict and turmoil. Noticeably, the scorch marks and burnt canvas packs such a visually powerful punch, the anger and violence almost visibly palatable.
The titular painting, Behind Closed Doors is a stand out in itself. A white door surrounded by gorgeously rendered flames, it haunts the audience. Visually gripping, this painting signals the start of our journey into a place of grief and anger. There is a quiet acknowledgement that this is a space that may be confronting to see.
It is this visibility that allows Kate to enlighten her audience on the themes presented. Inside, we discover a muted childhood bedroom, the scorch marks of the flames left behind. The furniture are painted white, save for brown and grey scorch marks. Most noticeable are the bed ends and decaying teddy bears. They provide the audience such a bleak reminder of the loss of innocence that has occurred due to the outer conflict. It is not hard to see how such trauma has affected the occupant of this room.
Currently one in four Australian women have experienced some form of domestic violence. These experiences are unfortunately common and the trauma can be life-lasting. Kate is not afraid to show the impact that such violence has throughout her work. The bedroom contains five other paintings that depict the stages of grief, showcasing to the audience that recovery can be a hard battle. A battle that may even result in a person feeling trapped and vulnerable.
And yet there is a quiet moment of hope. The final piece is simply a large scorched door in the corner. Quiet and unassuming in its presence, the door provides the audience a reminder that despite the horrors we have encountered, we can still move forward and leave the horrors of the past behind. Four stars.