With character and mischief, Wart’s art pushes boundaries and ideas on mental health

Wart at the opening of The Abyss at Griffith University Art Museum 2019 in front of her work Bathtub Babes. Curated by Naomi Evans. Photo by Amelia Donald.

Wart at the opening of The Abyss at Griffith University Art Museum 2019 in front of her work Bathtub Babes. Curated by Naomi Evans. Photo by Amelia Donald.

Drawing on her own experiences and insights as a visual artist and performer, Wart explores ideas and perceptions around mental health. We spoke to Wart about how she has sustained her artistic practise for over 40 years and what she has in the pipeline.

You work across visual arts and performance. Can you tell us a bit about your artistic practise?

I began to be affected by schizoaffective disorder in 1988. During that time, I started to explore emotional states in my artwork through a series of exhibitions called Mood Swings. Mood Swings gave the viewer an insight into schizoaffective disorder, and importantly gave me a way to understand what I was going through.

Over time I learnt a lot about schizo-affective disorder and how it affects me and others, and as my practise matured, I embraced performance, music, song, character, and spoken word, and found a platform to start telling my own story. As I developed my practise and collaborated with various artists, my illness also progressed.

Your new exhibition – Past Wents Work By WART – was scheduled to exhibit at Duckrabbit Gallery in Redfern in May 2020. How have the social distancing measures affected your exhibition, and will audiences be able to see it anytime soon?

During the COVID-19 lockdown I had planned a show, Past Wents, which was set to open in May 2020, and that was postponed due to the restrictions. But the good news is I was successful in my funding application with Create NSW’s Arts & Cultural Funding Program – Round 2 (2019/2020) for a new project Eye See Pink Black and White. The funding will allow me to create a new body of work exploring interrogation and characterisation, and ideas within the practices of scrutiny, beauty, and stigmatisation. I will be painting and constructing a wall of eyes – symbolising scrutiny; painting and drawing a pink flamingo, representing constructs of beauty; and the black and white ibis, symbolising those who are stigmatised.

You have worked with a variety of artists. What do you enjoy about collaboration?

In late 2019 I was awarded one of the inaugural Australia Council Arts and Disability Mentorships and I have been working with three amazing mentors, sorting through ideas from my visual arts and performance archival writings, from 2012-2016. While the mentor program has been impacted by the pandemic, it is still moving forward.

As part of the program I am putting my work into a form that could lead to a future publication. With my mentors I have gained an understanding that both visual and written journals are a monster grab of the artist’s mind.

My art has always been rich in character and story and my evolution into publishing is a natural and organic progression. My art is not always typical, but genuinely mischievous, and always interesting.

As an artist how do you think the arts can be more inclusive of those living with disability?

I have realised that the disability sector is getting more visible, with every decade, and organisations are being more inclusive. Keep advocating, be broad and expansive, be vocal, and keep working through the gaps!

What did you work on during lockdown?

I continued working on my writing and working with my mentors on a future publication. As that work now takes shape as a visual and written journal, I have been able to look back at previous works, photograph them, and find an appropriate place for them within the book.

Having this time has also meant I could make new paintings to complete and complement the book idea.

Reading, writing, and painting…. heaven!

What advice would you give emerging visual artists wanting to work in the industry?

Emerging artists have a lot of support if you look for it – be inquisitive, put yourself out there, create work, be open, be busy.

 

Here is a link to an Artist talk that Wart – Recorded at the opening of The Abyss at Griffith University Art Museum, Brisbane, Saturday 27 July 2019.

Image: Wart at the opening of The Abyss at Griffith University Art Museum 2019 in front of her work Bathtub Babes. Curated by Naomi Evans. Photo by Amelia Donald.
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