Many hands make bright work - SAHMRI and SALA's 2018 Artists in Residence Program

04 Sep 2018
Many hands make bright work - SAHMRI and SALA's 2018 Artists in Residence Program

Health is at the heart of everything we do at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), and the heart is at the centre of the Institute’s latest SALA project.

Heartlines, an Indigenous-themed community drawing project, has evolved across a giant canvas on the floor of SAHMRI’s foyer throughout August.

The work was led by artists-in-residence Anna Dowling and Laura Wills. It combines two of Anna’s passions – art and her vocation as a researcher with SAHMRI’s Aboriginal Health theme (Wardliparingga).

“Laura and I have led this community art project that shows how the environment and being on country and connected to culture supports health and wellbeing for Aboriginal people,” Anna said.

Laura says the collaborative work, on a canvas of four hospital bedsheets that have been sewn together, has benefited from the contributions of SAHMRI staff, school students, kindy kids and a host of other members of the public who visited “the cheesegrater” during August.

“It can be daunting to open up your work but also welcoming and surprising because we don’t know what’s going to be created,” Laura said.

“We’ve invited people to think about what health and wellbeing means to them. Not necessarily depicting a picture of something but more a feeling or a mark that could evoke an idea or a way of being. Waterways or veins or sunrays; those kind of concepts that can relate back to wellbeing and feeling healthy and happy in your community.”

The range of contributing 'artists' and scale of the canvas have produced a design bursting with life, detail and surprises.

“I really get inspired by everybody’s approach to something like this. Everyone has their own unique style so to see it come to life in this way is exciting,” Laura said.

“It’s hard to describe but there are bits you follow and discover. It’s the way some colours interact with other colours and the layering of different people’s contributions.

“Every time you look at it you see something different, from a different angle. There’s so much going on.”

When Anna and Laura began Heartlines there was no telling what it would become. The next mystery is where it will reside.

“A lot of people have asked what’s going to happen to the work and where it’s going to end up,” Anna said.

“We’re really open towards having those discussions with people, whether that be in a hospital or SAHMRI or another community space.”

Artists and admirers alike gathered to celebrate the finished work in SAHMRI’s foyer on Thursday, August 30.