In The Shadows is a touring installation exhibition of many small works including sculptures, ceramics, mixed media, bones and paintings exploring themes of pain, loss, mourning, anger, transformation particularly after sexual abuse. In the Shadows is my response to work and research with victims of sexual assault and family violence: The women, men and children with whom I work all bear scars of their abuse. Feelings can be buried under addictions, mental illness, loneliness and low self-esteem.
I see the artist as being uniquely placed to transform their experiences into work that acknowledges their pain and honours their resilience. ” I am deeply interested in the service art and the artist provides to the well-being of those who suffer. The exhibition acknowledges their suffering as well as their resilience. I tried to capture the fragmenting effects of trauma and loss – the memories that cannot wholly be described, the residual frailties, scarring and hurt alongside these victim’s capacity for joy, compassion and care despite that experience. In this exhibition viewers are invited to explore small and even tiny works that hang from the ceiling, sit in drawers, are nailed to the walls. The secrecy, vulnerability and the long-term impacts on victims – as children and as adults – are explored in a series of works built around children’s clothing.
I am a regular visitor to the region – I facilitated training programs in the arts for aged care and disability workers, and have enjoyed and captured the beautiful landscape in paintings and drawings.
2010 Art in the Shadows Artspace, Monash Medical Centre, Clayton
2011 Art in the Shadows Women’s Gallery, Queen Victoria Women’s Centre
2011 Good Grief Chapel on Station (part of a group show)
2013 Dark Nights Maroondah Art Space
2013 In the Shadows Wodonga Art Space
2013 St Nicholas Gallery Mordialloc (forthcoming)
Enquiries: Anne Riggs (03) 9532 5667 0417 526 636 firstname.lastname@example.org
Enquiries: Arts Space Wodonga (02) 6022 9600 email@example.com
FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT THE WORK:
IN THE SHADOWS:
Artists delve into shadowy places. We inhabit spaces and are fascinated by what is repulsive to others. Bones, death, human behaviours and materials provide artists with endless opportunities for metaphor. These are mostly intuitive, rather than intellectual works that grew out of my work with victims of family and sexual trauma and a lifelong concern with acknowledging and expressing grief and loss through art.
Much of the work in this exhibition is touched by my creative relationship with women who were sexually abused in their childhood. Abuse happens mostly in places where individuals should feel and be safe, and is a violation by those who distort their responsibility to protect and care. Childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault and the memories of these experience/s lurk in the shadows – unspoken and unacknowledged, yet their effect is long lived and profound. A deadening. One adult victim of childhood sexual abuse said to me “The act is almost forgotten. But the feelings surrounding it and impact of it are never forgotten, they are with us forever”. That sentiment informs this exhibition.
My work and practice is not put forward as a place of promise or certainty. Rather, it is a kind of anthropological fieldwork, one of recording, identifying and imagining. Like the journey of trauma and grief, creativity is not linear but rather a process of wondering and wandering. Therefore I am content with inconsistencies and imprecision to reveal my difficulties in coming to terms with the realities of sexual abuse, and creating artwork in its shadow.
Where trauma affects victims’ capacity to verbalise, and therefore recover from the experience, visual language gives expression to feelings surrounding loss and grief, including anger and the desire for revenge, as well as survivors’ aspirations for a better future. Artworks emerging from this shadowy world provides a catalyst for survivors to see what has been “dreamlike” or “tangled” memories, to express what has been inexpressible, to give voice to the their feelings and importantly, invites them to step out of the shadow and into the light.
The style of works in this exhibition brings to mind the domestic and the museum/gallery. Visitors are invited to open drawers, peer into cabinets, look up, look down and into places where trauma and grief occur and are hidden to view these hundreds of small and large works grappling with trauma.
The viewer is drawn into the works’ beauty and intrigue only to be confronted and repelled by its materiality. I see my role as an artist is not to lay bare the full truth of the trauma and loss, rather through work veils and softens, the viewer is able to look at an object of beauty rather than one of decay. It is a kinder, sympathetic and metaphoric means of gazing into the shadowy reality of trauma, loss and grief. The viewer can engage deeply with the subject because by expressing it through art has made it possible to look into it, rather than being forced to look away through horror or despair. The softening enables the gaze and the gaze evokes empathy.
The capacity of art to hold both the present and absent, attraction and repulsion, beauty and sorrow, and the visible and invisible worlds are amongst its very significant offerings for expressing the complexity of trauma and grief. Art’s ability to express a perception of the physical world as well as what is “below the threshold of perception”, as Beuys describes it, provides the artist and viewers with the means to convey and relate beyond the narrative, which can only ever be part of the story. The effect of trauma and grief can also be addressed.
ANNE RIGGS Artist 2013