by Jemima Whitford
“You took the children away … Breaking their mother’s heart, Tearing us all apart, Took them away …”
Archie Roach in Took the Children Away
The Charcoal Life series permits the observer to understand this experience on a deep emotional level, enabling the pain to be projected in a relatable way to their own personal relationships with loved ones. The Charcoal Life images evoke strong emotional responses and allow the observer to feel and value the experience, remarkably, from the perspective of both participants of the removal (the removed and the family).
While the grasses have a large metaphorical range of meaning, the neutral monotone referring to loss of all colour from the participants’ view of the world, the vulnerability of being surrounded by and lost in the grass (circumstance), not being able to see out of the grasses, being overwhelmed, isolated, depressed, angry and in pain. The series also paints the literal journey of many families with the grass being an environment children were stolen out of after running into grasses to hide… for safety.
The series starts with the anxiety and fear of Fretting. Someone hiding in the grass, vulnerable with the heightened sensation and awareness of fear. The sharpness of the outlined grasses emphasizes the adrenaline charged experience with the awareness of the danger outside the grass. The red and black outlines of the grasses highlight the uncertainty of either safety or danger leaving the participant in the state of being fretful.
Fractured represents that moment the loved one is taken, that disorientation the participants feel, with nothing making sense in that shocking moment of the breaking of their normality. Nothing in their reality fits together and the inability to fit the pieces of themselves back together into a coherent representation their previous life now leaving them in a shocking and incoherent place.
Angst shows a vicious bullet-hole-like red design over the grasses, conceptualizing the angst – the hurt and the pain. It vividly and passionately expresses the only emotions felt by the person – anger, raw, vulnerable and irrepressible.
Numb represents person’s reality of depression and the emotionless state of everyday without your loved one in the absence of the raw emotion of ‘Angst’. It is the rest of the person’s bland, non-responsive mind set when they are not immersed in their hurt, anger and pain.
Small Window Of Hope In this image we see souls in various states of healing of spirit that even trepidatious hope brings. The hope for the well being of the loved one. The hope for eventual re-connection. Colour creeps back into the participant’s world, being able to see the sky and stars through the grasses.
From 22 August to 16 September, I will be conducting Artist’s Tours to take you through the stories of and in my paintings. These tours are free but booking is essential. Please use this booking form to reserve your place in the tour calendar.