Back in August 2021, I had my first solo exhibition that featured 33 of my paintings! They were a part of my 100 faces project, which is my challenge of painting 100 people – the first one dating back to 2017; a very important and hard year of my life. I was so proud of my paintings and for completing a third of my goal, but because of Covid restrictions, almost no one was able to come. There were a few who were able to pop in to see it hours before the restrictions were enforced and I’m so grateful for that.
I can’t lie, I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t have an opening night – a party where people could see my exhibition, talk and have food and drinks. My extended family were traveling to see it too and I was so grateful and excited for that. I definitely respect and know the importance of Covid restrictions – they exist to keep people safe – but I think it’s also okay to be a bit bummed that something I worked on for nearly 5 years at the time and that had a lot of preparation and work put in by myself and my people, was something that not many people were able to see.
I don’t want to complain, because that problem is a very good problem to have in comparison to how Covid has affected other people and how it’s continuing to do so. I am truly grateful, because my experience of it is a wonderful memory that I will always treasure. My partner Bee, my parents, my sister Nadia, my friend Nikki and her boys, the people at GIGS, my uncle Andy, Aunty Mary and their support worker, all really helped make that exhibition happen or were luckily able to support it in person, with things like transporting the paintings, putting them up, giving advice, planning the event, preparing the merchandise and supporting me with love and even by buying some of my paintings! I am sure I missed people and for those I have missed, I am very sorry.
I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them. For instance, my partner Bee’s support and massive help was crucial in making it happen. She has always celebrated and encouraged my art making, connected with me through art and love, bought me canvases and paint, stayed by my side during my darkest days – even through psychosis, only 8 months into our relationship – cared for me so that I was able to make art, supported my mental health, loved me fully and was a major help in every part of the process of my exhibition.
I also want to thank my parents for supporting me in perusing art when I reached my lowest point in 2017. Art was my reason to live and them allowing me to leave high school, getting me mental health support, buying me paint and canvases, forgiving my massive paint spills, being one of my biggest supporters, looking after me, helping with preparations and for loving me, makes me so grateful. I’m so grateful to everyone who were able to come, to those who wanted to come and those who supported me by buying my art online!
Because most people couldn’t see my exhibition, I made a “Virtual Tour” video that showed my paintings on the walls and gave insight to me and my art. It was a very vulnerable video, but while it’s not the best quality, I’m proud of myself for making something out of a disappointing situation. This is the video:
Another amazing thing that happened was that I was contacted by a journalist called Tori Ellis who used to go to the same high school as me and who I always admired. She wanted to write an article about me in the Border Mail newspaper! Tori and a photographer came to GIGS and took some photos of me, and then Tori interviewed me. I was so nervous, but I think I did an alright job! It was so surreal seeing myself on a newspaper! I was really proud of myself for that and it really feels like an achievement. This is the article:
The support I got online from friends and family was unreal. I can’t lie, some of the paintings I created are a bit cringe-worthy to me now and even at the time, but I was still able to sell many of them despite it having to be done mainly online! I’m really happy and grateful about this whole experience and I saw how loved and supported I am. I treasure that memory.
TW: eating disorders, suicide, self harm
The 100 Faces Project started after I left high school in 2017. I was an exchange student in Japan for 9 months in 2016, leaving Australia when I was 15. I have written a post before about how I did not respect my limitations as a person with autism and how that drastically affected me and my experience. There were other aspects about the whole exchange and certain people who have hurt and harmed me that impacted my mental health while I was over there. There were so many beautiful things about Japan that were truly good, but the fact that I was traumatised and so depressed throughout it did taint those beautiful experiences. I would like to go to Japan one day as a tourist and someone who has healed from that traumatic time in my life, as to rewrite it all. It’s still hard to bring my mind back to that time, but I’ve started learning Japanese again and so far it’s been really healing.
I was so depressed and isolated, and my favourite part of my day was when I got to go to sleep. When I returned to Australia I pretended that I had a fantastic time, but as the days went by and my eating disorder came back in full force and I was still incredibly depressed and suicidal, I started to harm myself for comfort. One day I came home from school and took a huge amount of my medication and wrote an apology and goodbye note over a drawing I drew in Japan.
After my stay in a psychiatric ward at 16, I left school and truly focused on what kept me alive – art. I loved painting faces so much because it helped me express my emotions onto canvas, allowed me to play with colour and shadows, and it let me go into depth into my interest in how humanity thinks and works. There’s so much behind a face – their pain, wonder, hatred, hollowness and many more emotions can be found. People hide and show so much on their face. There’s so much beauty and ugliness in people and I wanted to explore that. So the 100 Faces Project started.
It was a challenge and motivation to keep on going. It’s already been about 6 years since the first face, so I wonder how many years it will take to actually have created 100 paintings of people. The challenge definitely worked.
My first exhibition means so much to me and while it didn’t go the way I hoped it would, I will always treasure that memory, as well as the people who supported me and helped put it all together. Here’s to many more exhibitions, the completion of my 100 faces project, meaningful connection and a life of making art. I’m really excited for the future!