“Bad Things Happen To Good People”, 2016 – Artist’s Statement
Bad Things Happen To Good People
When I was 7 and living in a typical post war suburb of Sydney, my mother and father separated. We had only been in the country for a few years, having left Poland on a tourist visa with virtually nothing. In Austria we applied for refugee status and after a stint in Norway came to a country that felt like another planet. Despite all the upheaval and loss, while we were together it seemed bearable. My parents managed to play along as though it were a big adventure and mostly hide the heartbreak and worry that must have been going on in their hearts and minds. Finally, at the end of our journey and settled into our new home in the suburbs, my father left and it drove my mother into a deep and catastrophic depression. They did their best but for some time, for my sister and myself, there was no feeling of the parental safety net that children so rely on. We were strangers in a strange land, quietly eating our ham and gherkin sandwiches at school, my sister being responsible all day for the key that would let us back into our home.
This terrible limbo state of perpetual anxiety, about the wellbeing of my parents and my new situation in the world, influenced my experience of the places around me. I already existed in an unfamiliar landscape and then suddenly the grounding security of a â€˜homeâ€™ base was obliterated. In a sense the landscape, the architecture, the interactions between the built and the natural environment, became deconstructed and largely empty of any inherent meaning. I had not had the time to write my own personal topography over them and so floated about observing the world in a strangely detached manner, trying to make sense of it all. I would gaze across the back oval of our school and imagine the field that once was, and the forest before that, despite the huge blocks of factories that bordered on two sides. A house became its component parts. Bricks, stuck together with mortar and shaped into a kind of shell for people to live in. Something to stop the rain and wind. A place to keep your things. A place to try to somehow construct a sense of safety in the face of a very uncertain world.
Subsequently the world would at times feel wildly over-loaded with meaning. The feelings inside me would seep out and imbue the outer scape with strange and frightening characteristics. As an artist, this has translated into a drive to explore how and what different environments can make us feel. The showâ€™s title, â€œBad Things Happen To Good Peopleâ€, came about while ruminating over our habit of trying to create a sense of control over an often uncontrollable world. So much of what we do is designed to mediate or distract from that unvarnished truth – religion, hard work, exercise, uppers, downers, magical thinking, lace curtains, Botox – the list could go on. My paintings are of ambiguous spaces and aim to highlight the fluid link between self, space and meaning. I use night-time as a means of removing the filter of the â€˜everydayâ€™ and to activate the subconscious. We frame the landscape in human terms – spaces for comfort, of fear, or in-between spaces of no obvious distinction that get overlooked. It is these projections of the human animal that interest me. Representing the landscape is an opportunity to reflect the self back to the viewer, who will naturally bring their own experiences to the moments that I capture.