Pour only when your own cup is full… South West International Women’s Day Art Prize

Earlier this year I submitted an artwork to the Women’s Health & Wellbeing Barwon South West Inc. International Women’s Day Art Prizehttp://www.womenshealthbsw.org.au/art-prize. This year’s theme was to “Be”. It asked artists to consider what it was or meant to “Be” from ones perspective or position in in the world as a woman. I last submitted work to the art prize in 2015 for their inaugural exhibition themed “Women & Place”. After completing my PhD I felt it important that I develop a work for the show. I considered my responses to the theme in the months leading up to the closing date. The final concept solidified in a moment of honesty and surrender on the eve of the closing date. It was one of the most important works I’ve ever found the courage to make.

“Pour only when your own cup is full” was an act of drawing a line in the sand, it was the artistic equivalent of shaving my head. It was as much a performance as it was as installation or sculpture in absenteeism. Not making an artwork was like choosing to breathe for the first time in years, to let go, to not force, to not exert myself on the tread(trend)mill running from the fear of disappearing, slaying temporal sacrifices to the creative gods of “not giving up”.

I described the rationale of this submission to another artist on the night of the award opening. She laughed, for a few reasons, and then blurted out “it sounds like giving up”. And perhaps it did, or does. And in the wake of this artwork I was scared of that. There has been a forward urging in my body since before I arrived at this sandstone bay 20 years ago, a compelling surging drive entangled in my creativity and my politics, in my imagination and my will to live. It has brought me amazing experiences but at many stages the requirements of tending to it has brought me to the darkest nights of my soul. It has foreclosed other opportunities, it has taken time and attention from my family. Through the many stages of conclusion to my PhD (my amendments were approved on April 3 this year!!) I have found myself reassessing what it means “to make it”, what does success mean, what does it look like? For the whole of my embodied world, not just its artistic dimension.

Accordingly there has been something liberating about the installation. When asked what kind of art I make I always explain that I work across mediums in order to find the most appropriate materials and methodology for the given situation- be that a PVC pipe river built inside my house or a high altitude camera launched into the stratosphere. This artwork exemplifies that ethos. There is a lovely confidence that has come through this piece- some of this is in that despite its lack of form and whiffs of academic wankerey it made it through the selection process- and some of this comes from that sense of catching my breath: I have moved into a new space as an artistic, I have lost something frantic and fearful from my motivation, I have more resolve to work at a pace that is sustainable.

For now success is balance.