Reverse Alchemy (2020)

My installation, collectively titled Reverse Alchemy, was exhibited as part of ‘SEWNUP’, curated by Fiona Davies, at Lyttleton Stores, Lawson.

Photography: Alex Wisser. Also pictured, Caducity’s Daughters 1-3 by Eloise Maree.

Top row from left to right: Reverse AlchemyI began defeated, and La Petite Mort.
Bottom Row from left to right: Anamnesis (Remembrance)Milk, and Judgement.

I wrote an artist’s statement for the exhibition:

My mother is a quilter. She has been making quilts for as long as I can remember. She has made numerous quilts for me and other members of my family over the years. There’s one on my bed right now that my mother made for my wife and I as a wedding present. It keeps us warm at night. These quilts are tangible expressions of love and warmth. They are works of art, but they are also made to be used.

The six quilts I’ve made for this exhibition (with help from my mother) are a way of thinking through my experience of depression as well as an expression of my desire for healing whether medical or spiritual. Living with depression can feel deathly – as if you’re not really alive. Having been depressed for so long, and tracing it back to my childhood, in some ways it feels as though I was stillborn. It’s as if I never successfully came into life in the first place.

My mother belongs to a group of quilters who make small quilts for stillborn babies so that their family have something to wrap the babies in. Inspired by this idea, I decided to make quilts for myself as a stillborn baby. In these works, I have combined references to psychoanalysis, medicine, spirituality, religion, and art to speak to themes of depression and healing, death and resurrection.

Although these works are very personal, I hope they speak beyond the particulars of my situation. I don’t know if I’m the only person with depression who does this, but I tend to have a pretty pessimistic view of life and I often draw parallels between my experience of depression and the human condition more generally. In particular, I think these works speak to the burden of mortality that we all share. As Samuel Beckett wrote in Waiting for Godot, “They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.”