This changes everything

8 May – 20 Jun

Eddie Abd • Maria Albiñana & Luke Eve • Margaret Ellen Burns & Julie Sundberg • Merinda Davies • Alana Holmberg Sean O’keeffe, Barbara Lepani & Brad Diedrich • Steven Oliver • Tracy Ponich • Ebony Secombe • Tina Marie Sheil & Ramana Dienes-Browning • Shan Turner-Carroll

This changes everything is a series of artistic responses to some of the dramatic events of 2019 and 2020. Beginning with a summer of catastrophic bushfires that devastated landscapes, habitats and lives across the country; 2020 then delivered an unprecedented shock to humanity as the global pandemic unfolded.

In early 2020, while the fires still burned and smoke lingered, Australia felt the first ripple of COVID-19. By late March, the tidal wave hit. State and federal government directives were to ‘stay at home’ and as autumn settled in, we went into lockdown, along with half the world’s population. Contemporary life suddenly had an unknown rhythm of restricted movement, curfews, social distancing, school closures and working from home. Everything changed. The ‘new normal’ became both a media cliché and our lived reality.

The artists in this exhibition explore the devastation, grief, frustration and anxiety of adjusting to a new day-to-day reality, as well as playfully engaging with this new world order. Whether reeling from the still-fresh trauma of the bushfires, making positive adjustments to a more minimal lifestyle or dealing with the constrictions of forced containment, the artists have seized this most unlikely creative catalyst. They all express deep feelings of re-evaluation and the need for change at both personal and collective levels.

Twelve months on, Australia appears to be back on track to ‘normal’; state borders are opening, businesses are operating at near-capacity and loved ones are being reunited after long separations. However, our landscape and wildlife have a long way to recovery, and many who lost houses are still waiting to rebuild. People who have lost someone close are slowly adjusting to life without their loved ones. Collectively, the nation is still in a state of low-level anxiety; alert to the next disaster. But there is also a sense of hope and a resurgent creative resourcefulness that has emerged. Like the rare pink flannel flowers (Actinotus forsythii) that require specific conditions to bloom, these artists have turned difficult conditions to surprising and often beautiful ends.

Rilka Oakley
Curator, Blue Mountains City Art Gallery

Blue Mountains City Art Gallery exhibition curated by Rilka Oakley

IMAGE ABOVE: EDDIE ABD to your health (still) 2021, single channel video, 3 min 45 sec. Courtesy the artist.
BANNER IMAGE: MERINDA DAVIES, Imprints, performance installation, 2021, PPE (gown, gloves, facemask, eyecover) hand sanitiser, sanitiser spray.