Talent: The first ARTEXPRESS exhibition opens on February 5 at Western Sydney University. It will be followed by other exhibitions including at Maitland Regional Art Gallery from September 10. Picture: Max Mason-HubersAMARA Woods’ personalreflectionon mental illness has earned her a place in one of the state’s most prestigious art exhibitions.
Intricate: Amara’s work.
The Swansea High student, 17, has had her work selected for ARTEXPRESS, a showcase of the best projectscompleted by NSW visual arts students as part of last year’s Higher School Certificate.
“I was jumping around my house, I was so happy and felt very proud of myself and the work I put in,”Amara said of being included in the exhibition.
“All the sleepless nights, the stress and the effort had finally paid off.”
Amara used her experimental artwork to exploreher grandmother’s experience of living with schizophrenia and how it had touched the rest of her family.
“It’s been a very strong influence in my life,” she said.
“It’s something that is always present at barbecues and family get-togethers, but it’s not something that we talk about very often.
“My relationship with my grandmother is also very strained at times, in our conversations there’s a list of things that we avoid talking about.We don’t bring it up.”
Amara used oil and acrylic paints, charcoal pastels, inks, pencils andfelt tip pens to create “intense, intricate” drawings across a piece of arches paper.
“I stitched wool into the paper and drew knitting needles and patterns to represent the deterioration and unraveling of relationships and the mind,” she said.
Amara also madetwo concertina books, to represent how the subject ofschizophrenia could be “closed off”in family discussions.
She said the work was neither positiveor negative.
“It’s more just about conveying what it’s been like for me,” she said.
“I think my family were interested to see that I was talking about it and expressing how I felt.
“My mum draws a lot of pastel works as well so she was offering me advice.”
Amara has always been an enthusiastic artist and as a primary schoolerwould spend lunchtimedrawing in her sketch pad.
Amara willbegin a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at the University of Newcastle this year and is considering transferring at a later stage into medicine.
She will continue practicing art as a hobby.
Students from Lambton, Whitebridge, Maitland Grossman, Merewether andTomaree high schools also had their work selected.