Art and science merge on a path to assist

LYN DI CIERO

Mikaela Castledine and Norma MacDonald at Raw Colour, on show at Holmes à Court Gallery in West Perth. Photo Lyn DiCiero.

Raw Colour at Holmes à Court Gallery in West Perth is an exhibition where art meets science, nurturing recovery and celebrating life. The show was born from a conversation six years ago curator Tania Fabris had as a patient of Professor Arlene Chan, Medical Oncologist and co-founder of a new Breast Cancer Research Centre in Nedlands. For the past 18 months Fabris has devoted herself full-time to gathering artists, poets, organisations and businesses to support her vision of raising funds for the Centre. A multidisciplinary artist, working across oil and glass, Fabris says  putting the exhibition together had been a labour of gratitude to honour a healthy future. She says the Breast cancer Research Centre is not only about research, but supports families and individuals. “It’s a one-stop Breast Cancer Centre. It’s not just about the medical side of things, but about different aspects of life after you are diagnosed, where people don’t realise assistance is needed. There’s social workers for children, for instance,” she says. 
 
Nineteen artists are exhibiting in the show, including Pippin Drysdale, Olga Cironis, Eveline Kotai, Mikaela Castledine, Monique Tippett, Jennifer Cochrane and Indigenous artist Norma MacDonald. For MacDonald, the exhibition was a parallel journey with her own health battle. After the 78 year-old had a fall, x-rays revealed a large tumor on her kidney, later removed in August this year. “The paintings I produced for the show mean everything to me and my people,” she says, “because mentally, I had to keep going. Some days I just wanted to give in and have a good cry, but I thought of all the people I was doing it for. A friend of mine had both breasts removed, and it was just horrendous.” She says Fabris provided invaluable support as she struggled to finish three works for the exhibition. “It was amazing how she put up with me, but when I took my works to the gallery, we had the biggest of hugs.”     
 
When Castledine was approached to participate in Raw Colour, she says it just seemed a very worthwhile project. “It’s really hard to resist someone who’s really passionate about something, and Tania is passionate about supporting the Breast Cancer Centre,” she says. Castledine’s work is a series of four crocheted red tailed Black Cockatoos inspired by a residency in Dwellingup. “The cockatoos were all around and dropping little branches around you, so I gained permission to to take some, using them for the red flash on the tail, bound in red crochet cotton.” 
 
While Castledine says there is no history of breast cancer in her family, she was attracted to the project by an empathy for those suffering with it, and the idea of the exhibition being linked with science. “People talk about science and art being quite different, but, for me, science and art are the same thing.  You’re setting out with a question and you’re aiming to find answers to try and understand the world a bit better – and you set out about it in the same way – you start off with a hypothesis, then you explore possibilities and at the end you work out whether you still think the same way or whether you’ve changed your mind about things. So, for me, that was really interesting.”
 
Fabris says so many have contributed to the show, made possible by support from the Minderoo Foundation, and the generosity of Janet Holmes à Court, Benara Nursuries, Leeuwin Estate, Castledine & Castledine and Perspectives. “It is a heartfelt contribution through them and participating artists,” says Fabris, “and I hope it inspires the imaginations of people who visit the exhibition to continue to support the Breast Cancer Research Centre.”
 
Raw Colour is on show at Holmes à Court Gallery until 30 October.   

Nature’s Lesson, oil on canvas by Norma MacDonald.

Red Tailed Blacks, crocheted Polypropylene, found objects (twigs) and crochet cotton by Mikaela Castledine.

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