“A medal is a great honour – but does it make up for what you have to go through to earn it?”
The Drill Hall Studio’s latest exhibition, Raw, is an offering of some of the most vulnerable portraits to have graced the gallery’s walls.
The exhibition, a collection of work by Drill Hall resident artist, Kathy Cornwall, is a window into the lives of past and current members of the Defence Force, shedding light on both physical and invisible wounds.
“This exhibition is about the community’s response to a confusing subject. It’s hard to understand and it’s people whose emotions are very hidden – wondering and trying to connect with them on a certain level,” said Kathy.
“As [friend and ex-army photographer] Troy Rodgers mentioned at the exhibition opening, people get tired of hearing PTSD thrown around and not taken seriously – but today, he has three children and still finds it hard to leave his home. It is an important topic. He’s wanting to create a safe place back here, and I think you get really focused on safety.”
Raw showcases a collection of portraits, all of which hint at the daily uncertainty in the mind of the person featured.
“I’ve used a range of mediums for this exhibition: there’s oil, charcoal, liquid chalk, and also dry points, where you scratch into aluminium and put it through a press – a bit like an etching, but a rougher technique so rather than using acid you get a much cleaner line. It’s a little bit rawer like the exhibition title,” said Kathy.
“I was actually aiming to use the landscape around them too, showing that sense of discord and trying to express the difficulty of coming back here after being in a totally different world with different pressures and feeling a little disjointed from your surroundings.
“I’m trying to think of what I’ll do next even though this exhibition has only just happened – but I remember in the period of doing this, Ben Quilty had his exhibition and it was on a similar theme. He painted soldiers naked to represent their vulnerability. He has a background focusing on men’s issues like car crashes, and the idea that boys will be boys, so I wondered why I was focusing outwards on a lot of men.
“There’s one woman in this exhibition, but I’m also interested in what women face with domestic violence. I know it’s a very worrisome part of our culture and believe it would make interesting, gripping artwork.
“I think artists have to be willing to be open to support. We all get taught to be self-sufficient, but it’s good to reach out and be open. Sometimes it feels a little lonely in Townsville and you have to seek out artists and other creatives to feel like you belong, because there’s other people in town that have different priorities which is understandable.
“But I love Townsville and it’s become my home – I’ve been here 18 years. So I’m appreciative of everything here.”
Visit Kathy Cornwall’s solo exhibition Raw at the Drill Hall Studio from now until ANZAC Day (April 25). Kathy can be found through her own Facebook page, Instagram, or via the Drill Hall Studio’s Facebook.