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Child and Mother explores the complexities of motherhood and mental health in a powerful new exhibition at The Dax Centre

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Media Release: 1 September 2020

A new exhibition curated by acclaimed Australian artist Del Kathryn Barton and inspired by the extensive works of Patricia Stewart will open on Thursday 10 September at The Dax Centre in Melbourne*

The Child and Mother exhibition is a rich visual exploration of relationships and connection and features over 200 paintings, drawings and sculptures from Patricia’s extensive personal collection developed over 25 years, in addition to pieces from the historical Cunningham Dax Collection housed at The Dax Centre. The exhibition also includes five new large-scale watercolour works created by Barton in response to Patricia’s art and the Collection, reflecting her own experiences of motherhood and celebrating Patricia’s unique aesthetic grown from her mental health journey.

A digital experience of Child and Mother is available online and includes an interactive 360 virtual tour as well as a curated walkthrough video of the exhibition.

Patricia was subjected to severe emotional abuse and Munchausen Syndrome by proxy from her mother who also lived with the disorder, which led to severe anxiety, chronic fear and borderline personality disorder behaviours. Patricia and Barton met by chance and found an instant and immediate connection.

In the Child and Mother exhibition, the artists share a space as creatives, as women with lived experience of mental health issues, as mothers and daughters, and acknowledges the struggles and stigma that are faced by women and those living with mental health issues.

Sharing deep respect and empathy for Patricia’s work, Barton believes that one’s lived experience of mental health issues can help create a generative force within the creative process, leading to an overwhelming quality of optimism and joy which, she says, is life-giving and exciting.

“I feel like one of the greatest gifts of Patricia’s work is that it stands outside of the understanding and context which it has been made. When you do understand that context, the quality of hope, resilience and transcendence, and the fact that we can carry trauma with us and that can create and inform and grow our greatest qualities as human beings, I feel like there’s no greater gift,” says Barton.

“Thinking about Patricia’s journey I feel a lot of sadness and want for a richer word around the suffering that all children go through. At the same time, I’m also a very strong believer that if we can bring mindfulness, reflection and consciousness and really honour healing journeys, emotionally and psychologically we can turn those traumas into types of super powers. I definitely feel that Patricia shines in that way. I’m so proud of this show, it feels very meaningful to me.”

Artist Patricia Stewart, 81, has drawn upon her lifetime of experience in creating her art. On her motivation, Patricia says, “What I am presenting is a mixture of many years of searching outside of myself and within myself. As I see it, it is a slow journey of recovery from complex trauma. My tools have involved creativity, psychology, spiritual impressions/expressions, words and images, all mixed to a personal paste of home-grown wisdom that I have created and present within my artwork.”

“My passion has been and is, to share my experience, strength and hope with others. I have found art to be a unique tool, in that, it has the potential, to meet the needs of the traumatised soul.”

The Dax Centre Collections Manager and Curator, Julia Young worked on the curation of Child and Mother with Barton and says “This really is an essential exhibition for The Dax Centre to have and for people to see. Not only because it showcases some of the most incredible and fascinating works from the collection, but because now, more than ever, connection between people and between communities is so important to maintain, and this exhibition takes us back to the beginning - to that maternal connection in the first breath of life, and through the twin journeys of child and mother.”

The Dax Centre Director, Charmaine Smith is thrilled to be sharing such a moving and inspiring exhibition with the public.

“We know that each and every visitor has their own unique experience of the child and mother relationship, and we hope that this exhibition provides an opportunity to reflect on the many aspects of this relationship, and perhaps deepen our understanding of our own mothers and our experiences as a child.”

Smith says one cannot help but be struck by Patricia Stewart’s love for life, curiosity and a desire to connect with others. She says, “Her genuine desire to help others experiencing trauma or mental health issues is palpable, she is testament to how art can help us connect with our inner worlds and assist in healing.”

“Both Barton’s and Patricia’s work has been inspiring for everyone at The Dax Centre, and we look forward to sharing it with the community,” Smith says.

Original artworks by Patricia Stewart and a carefully curated, limited-edition exhibition catalogue are available to purchase online at www.daxcentre.org/shop. The catalogue features full-page colour images of the new works by Del Kathryn Barton, a variety of works from Patricia Stewart and provides unprecedented access to rarely seen works from the heritage-listed Cunningham Dax Collection.

From September 10 a digital experience of Child and Mother will be available online and includes an interactive 360 virtual tour as well as a curated walk through video of the exhibition. Go to www.daxcentre.org/exhibitions/childandmother/

The Dax Centre is temporarily closed to the public as per current Stage 4 restrictions and will remain closed until restrictions are lifted.

Once restrictions are lifted The Dax Gallery opening hours are: Every Wednesday – Friday, 10.00am-4.00pm. Last Sunday of the month, 11.00am-3.00pm.

Admission to Child and Mother is free and guests of all ages are welcome. For more information visit www.daxcentre.org

The Child and Mother exhibition is supported by Gandel Philanthropy.

The digital experiences have been made possible with support from City of Melbourne.

Anyone looking for information, support and guidance from mental health professionals can contact the SANE Help Centre on 1800 187 263 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. from 10am-10pm AEST. For anyone in crisis, call:

Lifeline 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Line 1800 659 467
Mensline 1300 789 978
KidsHelpline 1800 551 800

* Exhibition will initially be online in a virtual format. The physical gallery opening will be dependent upon the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria.

ENDS

ABOUT THE DAX CENTRE

The Dax Centre provides artists with lived experience of mental health issues opportunities for creative expression while fostering social change by expanding the public’s awareness of mental illness and breaking down stigma through art.

Founded in 2012, but with a history spanning back to the 1940s, The Dax Centre is the premier exhibition space and education centre of it’s kind in Melbourne. The Dax Centre is proud to support a diverse group of talented artists realise their creative dreams and break down stigma through our education and public programs.

Through our exhibitions and educational programs we engage, inform and encourage conversations about mental health through art.

The centre is named after Dr Eric Cunningham Dax AO, and his pioneering work to develop mental health care and improve the quality of life for those living with mental illness. The Cunningham Dax Collection is an important art collection of national significance and is on the Victorian Heritage Register. It is the only one of its type in Australia, and one of only four of its kind in the world.

ABOUT SANE AUSTRALIA

SANE Australia is a national mental health charity that aims to make a real difference. We work to support four million Australians affected by complex mental health issues including schizophrenia, bipolar, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression and anxiety.

Video content from curator and artist Del Kathryn Barton and artist Patricia Stewart is available. Please contact Stef Harris.

E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To request an interview with the Director of The Dax Centre Charmaine Smith, The Dax Centre Collections Manager and Curator, Julia Young or artist Patricia Stewart please contact Bianca Lapins.

M: 0439 708 381
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Last updated: 29 April 2022
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