The 2016 Bankwest Art Prize opened last night. This is Western Australia’s most prestigious award for WA artists. I am extremely happy to be a finalist amongst some very august company.
My piece for this exhibition is called Damage.
This work is my attempt to understand child suicide. Having been distressed by news reports of children as young as ten committing suicide and hearing talk of tiny triggers distracting from extensive accumulated damage, the idea for this piece came to me as a way to make sense of the senseless and to honour every day in a life. Each circle represents a year with 365 stitches in the outer edge and the stack of ten circles echoes a life of a child. The damage is represented by a diminishing series of circles cut and melted through each disc forming an asymmetrical cone. This will take on a cumulative shape, which is both a presence and an absence, symbolising abuse and neglect.
Early in 2016 I completed a residency at PMH hospital where the cords and ropes I use for my crochet sculptures and teaching had to be carefully managed. Many of the children I was working with had mental health issues and it was important to recognise that the materials I see as creative and useful are often used to commit suicide. Making this piece using cord with a high breaking strain, one which you could trust to hold you seems appropriate.
The piece has a significantly human density, a dead weight. It weighs about 70 kilograms, making it difficult for one person to carry.
Most importantly the piece is beautiful. The colours, starting from a bright, clear neon green, grading through to a deep blue like a darkening aura, can be read in the most manifest way as green innocence moving to blue depression, but the darkening spectrum can also simply indicate growth and change and the gathering of knowledge that every child displays.
Due to our profound abhorrence of crimes against children and our understanding of the long term effects on many people, we have tendency to believe that a child who has been abused is permanently and irredeemably damaged. This must lead to an overwhelming hopelessness for which suicide may seem the only solution. I wanted to make a piece which was intensely beautiful and damaged, not beautiful because of the damage or beautiful despite the damage, simply beautiful in and of itself.
Deliberately cutting into the discs with their hundreds of hours of careful work is an act of brutality designed to evoke similar feelings in the viewer. Making a work that is both beautiful and damaged shows the possibility of redemption and allows contemplation of this terrible subject in a way that is bearable.