Journey of Souls
Thursday 21 November, 6PM
- When 21 Nov - 3 Dec 2019
281 Clarence Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
MON - FRI 10AM - 6PM, SAT 11AM - 5PM
The Journey of Souls is a joint exhibition UNSW: Art and Design Capstone project by Aayushi Shah and Steve Starr that engages with the concept of the ‘journey’ that we have all made to be where we are. These journeys often involve a change in one’s state of mind, a change in one’s state of being, moving to a new town or street or the journey to a new country for a new life of work and opportunities or to flee danger in one’s homeland.
Steve Starr engages with the migration to Australia of his English ancestors in the 1830s. Some of these people were transported as convict indentured labour and some as free settlers seeking to flee oppression in Britain. Some made prosperous lives here. Others died on the way on board the immigrant ships or shipwrecked like Dunbar that was dashed below the cliffs at Dover Heights in Sydney. Starr engages with this story through otherworldly photograms created from 19th-century glass plate negatives and found photographs.
Starr’s work captures the spirits of the lost migrants who are interred in the cemeteries of the Quarantine Station at Manly and St Stephen’s Church at Newtown. Starr’s work harks to the 19th-century fascination with death, the afterlife, séances, spirit communication and ancestor worship. This Victorian Gothicism manifested through mortuary photos and spirit photograms that was enabled by the invention of the camera. This was at a time when death was ever-present and random.
Aayushi Shah is a textile artist from India who is passionate about how crafts inform her culture. Shah’s works are influenced by these traditions and they revolve around how traditional techniques are affected in today’s digital world. Since moving to Australia, Shah’s practice amalgamates western methodologies with traditional techniques to keep her cultural heritage alive.
India is a lively and festive country, so Australia is a very contrasting experience for her. At times Shah was extremely homesick which she overcame with a quiet and calm ambience. Added to this, she experienced the associated trauma when she was separated from her husband and her family to migrate to Australia.
Through this artwork, she comes to terms with these life-changing events. Shah’s emotional state informs the different textile materialities selected for the works. Each piece reflects her migration experience, her emotions, the significant changes in her life and articulates the many cultural and behavioural differences between India and Australia.