In Loving Memory 2008

In Loving Memory 2008

My work is a meditation, the making of art gives me long periods of solitude and self actualisation. Finding the zone beyond thought has given my life balance and piece, creating art connects me to my spirit, and it’s my job to nurture my spirit.

It’s about all the different parts of me and is the perfect diary of my life and experiences.

I love watching work grow out of an initial idea or experience. Over the years I have created works around my identity, sexuality, domestic violence, love, death and environment concerns. Creating art based on such serious and heart felt issues, I try to engage a broader audience by using humour when possible and very pretty materials including collage, stitching, beading and knitting. This process has been a great help in softening my heart and the way I view the hardness I have lived.

Even though I embrace the notions of identity deeply I’m conscious of the universal human experience as I hope to always include.

A recent body of work “LOVING MEMORY” gave me the strength and insight I needed to keep walking with grace as I dealt with death and grief, after losing a number of significant loved ones.

As a child I was moved and always curious with the dead. I would talk to my dead grandmother when I prayed and when my pets died I would make crosses and hold services. The dead kept me company; finding great comfort knowing I wasn’t alone. It was this need for connection that brought about the image of the crow often side by side with the shadow.

As the shadows started to appear my paintings I realised they represented my ancestors and at other times my demons and struggles. A shadow can be a region of darkness where light is blocked, in some cultures a shadow is similar to a ghost, or a representation of god’s presence, almost life a halo. For me I also see the shadow as an alternate reality whose dimension overlaps ours, a connection. It is believed by some Aboriginal people that a spirit (our soul – our dreaming) dwells within each of us that is a constant of truth and goodness untouched and undisturbed by trails, problems and colonial history that scar our outer features.

My Grandmother always watched the birds and the crows I was told where the old people coming to visit, to remind me I did have company and a connection to the spirit world. I believe my ancestors are visiting when the crows appear, so in a time of great pain I created work that called in the spirits. In some paintings the crow holds a female figure and her shadow almost like a mother would hold a child at other times it hovers over her, protecting her in the landscape. In mythology, crows tend to be symbolic of the spiritual aspect of death, or transition of spirit into the afterlife.

“ In the traditional society of Aboriginal south-east, everything in the world is divided spiritually, socially and taxonomically into two halves (moieties) called Eagle Hawke and Crow! Crow has a higher meaning. Such an appearance of a crow would inform or foretell us of a close death. An extremely intelligent social being, crows gather at the death of one of their own, to chant and wail for the loss“.

From ‘Conversations with a Crow’ written by Djon Mundine about this series of work 2008.

The crows give me strength to fly above my shadows as I walk this life searching for meaning and safety.

With the warm response from these works I have been reassured once again that no matter what colour, what sexual presence, what age, how much money you have in the bank , whether you are ready or not death will touch you.

Art has been my major source of healing for the past two decades. It continues to heal and ground me as an Aboriginal woman living in Australia.Through its power I have been given a voice.I now am able to stand tall and proud in any community, with a strong voice and a firm knowing of who I am.

I have no doubt that I am a blessed woman on this planet to have art in my life.

Karla Dickens for The Art of Healing Magazine