Article by Philly Hunt
My father has immense woodwork skills; he’s always been one to spend weekends in his workshop. The noises I would hear coming from across the yard of hammering, drilling, sawing and sanding were a prompt that some precise and constructive process was going on inside.
I always appreciated the skill, but only recently have I discovered the therapeutic effect of working with wood. I have far less patience and material precision and perfectionism than Papa, which is unfortunate because such characteristics enable you to work creatively in a very soothing way.
However, I find the process to be the most interesting part. Indeed in all my art ventures, I find myself analysing each step and decision in the creative process, sculpting the reason for each visual and procedural aspect into a sharp and precise metaphorical point, until it has been so lovingly fashioned that it becomes something of a religious obligation to fulfill my idea.
So, I set myself the task of building therapeutic objects out of wood, and realising the mental probing and healing that comes through this process of creating. Initially I focused on the basic procedure carried out in the cutting of wood and analysed the process as an allegory of a brain suppressing trauma; the process being based on cause and effect. An incision is made and a residue is left behind. There are sharp edges that fit recesses. You can try and shed the damage and tread it into the carpet, but it will always be there. The only thing to do is to take what has been cut and send it on its original creative path by addressing the incision and building onto it, leaving no gaps uncovered.
Knowing this, I then built an emotional storage device: a tower of wooden boxes stacked perfectly on top of one another, with each layer smaller than the one before, so that it only partially obscured what preceded it. The stack represents the structure of the traumatised brain in that each traumatic event can be stored away but accessed at will if required.
I like to compare it to Arcade Fire’s album The Suburbs which I find is also an emotional storage artwork; its elegiac recounting of the bands maturing in the suburbs is an immortalisation of their feelings and reflections. It is an appreciation and peacemaking with everything that happened, or did not happen, when they were younger. Those emotions are accessible for them at any time. However, my stack of boxes differs from their album after this point; I can never finish my piece. The stack of boxes can never be completed while I am alive; its practical process of holding each person that I grieve for in one of its layers will continue. It’s horrible but true.
I find the titling of works to be a very respectful process. The personal and active emotional involvement I nurture with my artworks makes me feel I have to honour them. It’s as though I’ve handed over feelings that need to be guarded. The title of my stack of boxes is ‘As long as it’s not a big crowd’ – a quote by Bianca from the Australian TV soap Home & Away. It’s the only television show I watch, simply because it’s so far removed from my life but at the same time it’s also somewhere I used to know – somewhere that situates my most traumatic experience.
Watching Home & Away simultaneously gives me a break from myself, and allows me to revisit my old self. I find watching it a necessary therapeutic procedural part of my day. The quote ‘As long as it’s not a big crowd’ is in reference to Bianca’s son’s funeral and it sprung at me in a moment of perfect summary of my project.
Sometimes I feel lazy by following my instinct like this, but I feel that’s ok (according to Carl Jung, my personality type is INFP, meaning I am mostly intuitive and I just can’t help it). My next project is with a friend of mine – also INFP – and our methodology is going to be carried out according to the INFP criteria throughout the creative process. It is this process, each tiny step, decision, analysis and method that makes the work what it is, and to which the final project owes everything.