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Artist Shan Primrose on ‘Dog’s Breakfast’ and people leaving ciggies and condoms as offerings at her exhibition

Burmese-Australian artist showcases her diverse identify through art. ...

Burmese-Australian visual artist from Melbourne, Shan Primrose decided it was time in late November 2021 to honour her dual identity through art when her solo exhibition, Dogs breakfast came to life.

The 26-year-old artist’s craftwork exhibits influences of Australian and 90s cartoon shows from the ABC, in Dog’s Breakfast. “I like colours a lot and I also like monsters; I like painting things that come straight from my imagination,” Primrose says.

Primrose claims she embraces the chaotic union of her two cultures, as well as her two dogs hence the name Dog’s Breakfast, an Aussie slang “used to describe something or someone that looks messy,” according to Insider Guides.

In her ‘Self Portrait 1’, the artist is seen wearing a traditional Burmese Longyi paired with an Aussie bikini and a turban made from an AFL scarf, while holding her two dogs to show harmony between her two cultures. The artist also painted a VB bottle and a bong made from a Gatorade bottle at the bottom of the portrait to pay tribute to the Aussie culture on her father’s side, “it’s funny because my cousin actually has a bong company where he makes ceramic bongs,” she says.

 

Self Portrait 1: Image supplied by Shan Primrose.

 

The exhibition also featured a sculpture titled ‘Nat Shrine’ with a note reading, “leave an offering”. Primrose says this was one of her very first sculptures made of recycled timber to imitate Shrines that are found in Burma to house spiritual deities and offerings. The ‘Nat Shrine’ showcases pieces of Australian youth culture, such as the painting of a Burmese deity on a ‘goon sack’ smoking a cigarette and a jug that was stolen from a bar. Primrose explains, “I really wanted an interactive element to my show, so this was perfect, people were leaving me more ciggies, money, condoms and random ID cards,” the artist says.

 

The Nat Shrine displayed at the exhibition. Image supplied by Shan Primrose.

The Nat Shrine, Image supplied by Shan Primrose

Growing up within the insular suburbs of the Mornington Peninsula sheltered the artist from accepting her Burmese culture for a long time until she moved to the city. “The whole journey of curating this exhibition was all about learning and reclaiming this part of my identity that I was never open to before,” Primrose says.

Primrose looks forward to taking a break from her art for a while for her mental health and moving to Sydney to connect with more artists.

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Art, infrastructure and care are the future of Westmead Children’s Hospital

Walking down hospital halls of empty white walls can be daunting, but Westmead Children Hospital is changing that. ...

Hospital visits, unknown illnesses, new entrances and blocked pathways can make parents weary. It is important to parents and carers that their loved one gets the best care. At Westmead Children’s Hospital (WCH) new infrastructure developments aim to offer the best care, growth and innovation with the newest facilities for people in Greater and Western Sydney.

Stage one developments and redevelopments are complete and the second stage of the infrastructure is due to be completed in 2025 and will cost $619 million. The Second Stage of construction was announced to commence later this month and give the community playgrounds, gardens, family rooms and accommodation for worried carers. The vision for the future includes open floor plans for family-friendly time and in the middle, a large fish tank to inspire curiosity. The children will be able to feed their imagination with endless possibilities and creativity.

In an interview with The Sydney Children’s Hospital Network (SCHN) earlier this month, New South Wales (NSW) Premier Dominic Perrottet said “This redevelopment will deliver the best paediatric healthcare in the country.”

Alyssa Gillgren, a social worker for WCH recalls the previous upgrades on the first stage and how that will play a role in how others will react to the upcoming changes. “When they opened the new emergency unit it was new, exciting and fresh,” she says.

With the Stage 2 redevelopment on its way, Gillgren is most excited for the hospital to be rejuvenated and upgraded like other hospitals across Australia. “In the short-stay unit, everyone has new rooms avoiding contamination and diseases. It’s brighter and fresher, everyone is excited about the coming infrastructure. They’ll be a big slide and a new operating theatre. All the other hospitals have been upgraded. Melbourne and Queensland got a big upgrade and for some reason, NSW got left behind,” says Gillgren.

The virtual walkthrough is available on NSW Health Infrastructure’s Youtube Channel.

 

 Healing with Art

While the developments are in the works, WCH has been making a huge difference in simple ways. ‘Operation Art’ is an art exhibit created by WCH and the NSW Department of Education.

Since its conception in 1995, students aged Kindergarten to Year 10 can create artwork for sick kids. All students have an opportunity to contribute to the walls of WCH. Children can create art for display in the children’s ward up to A2 in size. They can either work individually or in groups of up to four. All artworks will be displayed at Sydney Olympic Park in September later this year. Only 50 of the best artwork goes on tour to places such as Wollongong Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of NSW before ending up at WCH. WCH is a registered art gallery in itself needless to say the hospital agrees with the many benefits art provides to patients and the community.

Social worker Gillgren reflects on her little sister’s achievement of being selected to be a part of ‘Operation Art.’

“Back in 2013 or 14 my sister had one of her artworks nominated through her high school to enter into ‘Operation Art’ it was on display at Newington Armoury at Olympic Park and then it travelled to different galleries. It was really cool to see her artwork amongst all the others. It was a good achievement.” Today she walks down the same halls as a medical professional “I think it definitely brightens everyone’s day seeing all the really colourful artwork. We have them in our offices. We get to see bright colours in a normally dull and dark hospital,” says Grillgren.

The artwork has a positive impact on children who are going through a challenging time. Olivia Skinner spent her teenage years in and out of the hospital. She fought cancer in Westmead Children’s Hospital and says the art was always a joy to walk past. “It made the hospital feel more like a home than a hospital. It was always nice seeing the beautiful art on the walls that the children made,” says Skinner.

Art can make a big difference for kids in these difficult times. A simple piece of beautiful artwork can make the day seem less dull. As reported in the 2006 ‘Visual art in hospitals: case studies and review of the evidence’ by Louise Lankston “Although art and science are vastly different there is still little we understand about both and there are some instances where the impacts on health can be treated by art when science fails,” says Kirsty Schirmer, Policy Officer of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Art.

Art has a profound way of connecting to humans to inspire joy and imagination. “Exposure to The Arts has a profoundly beneficial impact on patient wellbeing through its use in health promotion and messaging,” says Health Infrastructure NSW.  These health messages may include assisting pain thresholds for patients. In 2021, Dr Elizabeth Broadbent in New Zealand conducted research into pain thresholds and proved art helps increase patients’ pain tolerance.

Walking down hospital halls of empty white walls can be daunting. Sometimes hospitals can feel like a maze. At Westmead hospital patients, visitors and medical staff can view art on their way and in the future enjoy the state-of-the-art developments.

 

For more information:

NSW Health Infrastructure: https://www.hinfra.health.nsw.gov.au/our-projects/project-search/the-children%E2%80%99s-hospital-at-westmead-%E2%80%93-stage-2-rede

 

Art Unit -‘Operation Art’: https://artsunit.nsw.edu.au/program/operation-art

 

Stage 2 Virtual walkthrough – NSW Health Infrastructure’s Youtube Channel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kW2av_CSDo&ab_channel=HealthInfrastructure

 

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The lucky (racist) country

Dinusha Soo dissects racism in Australia through the lens of Reg Mombassa's art....

For many of us growing up in Australia, we were often reminded of the fact that we live in the ‘lucky’ country, made up of a rich fabric of multiculturalism. Our diversity is touted as one of our key strengths, particularly when compared to other Western nations.

But for several Australians – our diversity is the very thing that can lead to oppression. One in five Australians have experienced racism in 2017 alone, according to a poll commissioned by the SBS with Western Sydney University.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a large portion of this racism has been directed to Asian-Australians and prior to this, the Muslim population.

So, what makes Australia racist and has this always been the case?

When the White Australia Policy came into effect in 1901, anyone from a non- European background could not enter the country. This was not abolished until as late as 1973, all while the Stolen Generations period was occurring between the mid-1800s to the 1970s.

Then if we look at our current national anthem, which surprisingly came into effect in 1984, we would all be familiar with the words, “for we are young and free.” Harmless enough? “These very words sung in our Australian anthem ignore the 65,000 years or more of Indigenous Australian culture,” says France Mao in a BBC article.

Reflecting on Australia’s laboured efforts to recognise and afford rights to those of Indigenous descent, it presents as a mere example of underlying racism in this country.

One of Australia’s most renowned artists, Reg Mombassa provides searing political commentary through his artwork. When asked by Troublemag what he perceives as the most important societal issue in Australia today – his response was racism.

Design by Dinusha Soo
Design by Dinusha Soo

Reg has done several pieces discussing racism, one of his more notable designs was for Mambo, where an Australian representation of Jesus extends an olive branch with the words “Australian Jesus welcomes the boat people.”

In recent times, these ‘boat people’ have been denied entry to Australia, even if they were facing persecution in their homelands. Australia currently has agreements with neighbouring countries, to process asylum seekers ‘offshore.’

The Refugee Council of Australia states that this means that people seeking asylum are generally detained, often for long and uncertain periods”. Additionally, there is no independent review of the decision to detain, and people have been detained for increasingly long periods.

“The detention of people seeking asylum under this regime is one of the harshest in

the world and causes terrible suffering,” the Refugee Council of Australia states.

As Australians who recognises our past and indeed our current policies – we must strive to do better. This will require having a sense of empathy and understanding toward our fellow humans, irrespective of the colour of their skin, their creed or their cultural beliefs. It is only by striving for a more equitable society, will movements like Black Lives Matter, which resonates with people globally, have any profound impact on our own culture here in Australia.

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Boys will be boys

The old adage and its place in toxic masculinity explored through the works of Reg Mombassa. ...

Many of us would be familiar with the adage ‘boys will be boys’, but in light of recent global movements – such sentiments only highlight the absurdity of this way of thinking. Let’s start with what’s happening in our own backyards.

The role of what a man is and how that is defined is often a rigid structure beginning from the time they are young. They are told not to cry should it risk them being seen as ‘soft’, they are given toys conforming to gender stereotypes and their heroes are often depictions of strong, superhero men.

In Australia, the way the role of a man is defined, and the expectation of how they should act can create a toxic culture around masculinity. Men are often stereotyped as only being interested in sport, enjoying a beer, being tough and generally dominant. But what happens to men that don’t conform to this standard?

While this is an issue that spreads around societies and cultures globally, this mentality often starts with our upbringing and within our households. In a Sydney Morning Herald article, Clementine Ford notes that there are important links between the conditioning of gender in young children and the consequences as they then grow older.

Artwork by Dinusha Soo
Artwork by Dinusha Soo

Reg Mombassa, a designer for one of Australia’s most iconic brands of the nineties, Mambo, often refers to the toxicity of Australian masculinity in his work. He uses his design work as a platform to showcase this – challenging the standards we often confine our men to.

Several of his artworks feature Australian animals holding iconic items such as a football, beer cans or stoking a BBQ – all generally associated with the stereotype of being an Australian man. He notes in a Sydney Morning Herald interview that he “realised he was a low-status male”, creating self-portraits to present ways in which not all men fit into this pre-defined image.

“When you make art and read books, you realise that you’re on the outside of society. I started to resent being bullied by more powerful males. That’s how society has been structured. I think a lot of men are questioning it and realising that it’s not such a good thing,” Reg says to Sydney Morning Herald.

As a student body, it’s pivotal to reflect on the role of Australian masculinity – whether we are benefiting from it or perpetuating it. We must consider how we could change the stereotype around men in Australia to be all encompassing and this starts with teaching the youth, our sons, little brothers, nephews and our communities.

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Amelia Caldwell: “Nothing can compare to the joy that comes from someone buying something you have handcrafted”

Despite the challenges, the business continues to thrive and hopes to promote environmentally sustainable practices....

Amelia Caldwell, who will soon join Western as a student, started a business in 2021 based on up-cycling materials. Despite the challenges, the business continues to thrive and hopes to promote environmentally sustainable practices. Compiled by Shayma Abdellatif.   

Amelia Caldwell creates handmade jewellery from up-cycled materials. Photo supplied by Amelia Caldwell.

 

1.     What type of business do you own? 

“I created Dreamgazee, dedicated to up-cycling materials and creating handmade unique jewellery/accessories that can be used for self-expression of every individual. I also sell some other products when I can, including t-shirts, arm warmers, clay trays and even some of my own artworks…

 

“The core of my business is about repurposing and recycling – or more importantly up-cycling and reusing products, tools, equipment and materials that have been discarded or deemed ‘broken’. When creating pieces, the majority of my materials are second hand. By repurposing we can look at decreasing waste especially from fast fashion industries. I personally enjoy using a range of different materials such as pearls, sea-shells, different beads, wood, wire, decals, bleach, fishing line, thread, knickknacks and children’s toys… 

 

“During lockdown, I repurposed jewellery from a couple years ago that I no longer wear to create new products, I also had so much fun recording videos about my business for social media; I made an ASMR video showing myself stocking up my new storage unit and it’s beyond satisfying.”  

 

 

Handmade jewellery sold at Dreamgazee. Photo supplied by Amelia Caldwell.

2.     What motivated you to start your business?  

“At the beginning of 2021, I knew I needed to bring something new into my life after the stress and intensity of 2020. So, I decided to grab onto independence and entrepreneurship by starting my own small business…

 

“As a prospective WSU student, I’m looking forward to studying a Bachelor of Design and Technology and the opportunities that I will experience studying here. Over the past decade, I’ve truly been able to see how much I value design and the arts. I’ve studied Visual Arts, Woodwork, Textiles, Basic Design and Technology, Business Services, Ceramics, Photography and I also spend my own time learning about each of these topics to strengthen my skills and gain more knowledge. This has all assisted me greatly when starting my business!”

3.    How did COVID-19 and the lockdown affect your business?

“Surprisingly it benefited my business, as a creator whose sole form of connection is through social media and other digital platforms being in lockdown drew more attention to my business, especially due to the fact that everyone was online for one reason or another. One struggle I can point out is access to materials, there were times when I had run out of important jewellery making equipment and wasn’t able to go get them, therefore holding back my creation process and impacting my business.”

4.     What are the main benefits and challenges of owning a small business? Did you receive any support to establish it?

Getting my products out to an audience is pretty difficult! Social media is obviously huge now and there are tens, probably thousands, of small businesses out there all trying to do the exact same thing as each other; promote your work, attract and sell to clientele, develop customer rapport all whilst creating products, uploading/editing posts on social media, websites or web stores, handling postage, buying materials etc. It’s definitely a lot to handle but it’s all part of the business…

 

“Thankfully I have some help from my family but otherwise, I handle everything on my own. Some other personal struggles I’ve had are shipping costs in Australia, especially dealing with international shipping which is often over $20.00 AUD on its own!…

 

“But nothing can compare to the joy that comes from someone buying something you have handcrafted. That joy increases when people ask for custom pieces, they put their trust in you to create a product just for them which is incredible. Being able to share my work with others is extremely fulfilling as a creator/artist, the support is highly appreciated from everyone! Every single like, share, comment and save is important to me.”

 

5.    What is it like running a business while studying? 

“Definitely difficult. It can be super hard to balance out work and study along with things you WANT and NEED to do. In saying that, I should have a timetable, calendar, reminders and checklists; but I don’t. Somehow, I just push through, I listen to my mind and body, go with the flow of what I feel needs to be done which has been working well at the moment for me. I think that’s a big part of balancing work and study, understanding what your mind and body needs as well as the importance behind certain tasks. It will help you to get tasks done while not overworking or pushing yourself, taking care of yourself is the most important.”

 

Handmade jewellery sold at Dreamgazee. Photo supplied by Amelia Caldwell.

 

6.    Where do you hope to see your business in the future? 

“I’d really love to open up a stall in a market every now and again, get my pieces out to stylists and maybe even have my own personal online store. These goals are obviously big and will take time to reach but I’m really hoping I can get there eventually.”

 

7.     What advice would you give to other students? 

“I encourage others to donate materials or anything that can be reused rather than ending up in landfills, and contributing to the already growing climate crisis. We must learn to look at items we are going to throw out with new eyes, how can we create something from it? That’s my design process. To promote this thinking and process of creation would see huge changes in not only the fashion industry, but many other industries as well…

 

“Look at your design process and see how it can become more eco-friendly, sustainable and accessible. Also, to students and consumers in general, support your local small businesses! We appreciate all the help we can get, investing in slow fashion and handcrafted work is beneficial for everyone!”

 

 

Follow Amelia on @dreamgazee_ to view or purchase their products.

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Jasmine Derbas: “It’s work away from work”

WSU student shares her experience of starting up a business during the pandemic....

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jasmine Derbas established a small art business. Jasmine is a fifth-year law and journalism student and works as a student curriculum partner for the Western Sydney University’s 21C Project. For Jasmine, her business is more than a source of income. It’s an outlet that inspires her creativity and develops her entrepreneur skills. Jasmine shares her experience of starting up a business during the pandemic. Interviewed by W’SUP Editor Shayma Abdellatif. 

 

Self-taught artist, Jasmine, established her art business in 2020. Photo by Jasmine Derbas.

 

  1. What type of business do you own and when did you start?

“I have an art business. I focus more on alcohol inks and resin works. I started playing with inks around last year, but I didn’t start the business side until this year. Resin and alcohol ink is really good because I can make a lot of homewares out of them …

 

“I do everything at home, and I usually post everything out myself. I don’t really have a particular space to work on art at the moment. We’re going to build a studio in my backyard because it’s getting quite overwhelming with all the stuff that I’m bringing in right now. My parents go like, ‘your art is everywhere’.”

 

 

  1. What motivated you to start your business? Did you receive any support to establish it?

“I always loved art ever since I was in primary school. My two aunties are high school art teachers and they’re very artistic and I adopted that when I was really young. I never did anything with it until I started a face painting business a few years ago. I really loved the interactions but my studies got in the way, and work got in the way, because I always had to travel out to go do the face painting jobs …

 

“Now, doing the resin art and alcohol ink art, I can do it all from home and everything is sent here, all my supplies, it’s a lot easier. It’s still time consuming but in a different way. I can work around the clock. My family is very supportive, they always help when I need. It’s more of moral support, I don’t really have them do hands-on stuff, or I’ll go to them for second opinions, friends as well.”

Resin bookmarks from Arts By Jazzd. Photo by Jasmine Derbas.

 

  1. How did COVID-19 and the lockdown affect your business?

“I think a lot of people are more on social media now, I feel like people are shopping more and looking at pretty things to add to their homes. I don’t think COVID has affected my business in a bad way necessarily. Maybe in getting supplies, it takes a bit longer to get things posted to my house. Because I’m studying and working from home, I get to work on business more. Sometimes I’m in class and doing some art while listening to my lectures. I’ll be able to compare it when COVID is over and the lockdown is over, because I started this during COVID.”

 

  1. What is it like running a business while studying at university?

“Overwhelming because I don’t have time to really do much, but I also look at my business as an outlet. I’m working setting in my room, and studying setting in my room. Being able to do something practical that I’m passionate about but it’s not as mind-boggling and I get to do it with my hands is good. I think of my business as an outlet more than a stress. My work with the Uni as student partner is flexible, so I don’t know how it’ll be when I get a 9-5 job as a lawyer or whatever I end up doing.”

 

  1. What are the main benefits and challenges of owning a small business?

“Benefits are that I’m doing what I love, I’m doing it when I want, how I want. I can run on my own timelines. That also runs into a challenge of when do you actually stop working. I am doing something I‘m passionate about, I love making art, I love being creative and I like that it’s something I can do when I feel like doing it instead of something that’s on full-time basis …

 

“The challenges are more about establishing a name, there’s a lot of competition. I ask myself, do I want to go viral or do I want to stay local. Another challenge is learning to do everything. You are the whole team as one person, you’re dealing with everything. The social media, the business, the packaging, you have to deal with posting, you have to deal with creating the actual product, making sure the quality is fine. You are the whole team and that can be a challenge, because you need to be able to know all these different skills and disciplines to allow your business to function. It’s not just selling a product, you need to establish a relationship online with your customers, build a website, and that takes a lot of time, effort and research…

“But I think it’s still rewarding in the end. It’s work away from work. There are challenges but I feel that overtime you get used to approaching a problem and then learning how to solve it.”

 

  1. What are new skills that you gained from your business?

“I learned alcohol ink last year. I learned to keep an eye on what customers like, I learned how order products, I learned that you really need a good communication platform and to show people what you’re doing. Moving with trends is also very important and I learned how to build a website.”

 

  1. Where do you hope to see your business in the future?

“I would like to see it the see it pretty much the same thing. Still working how I want, when I want, creating what I love. I don’t see myself growing into a mass company, that does mass production of artwork. I like to keep it small and local for myself and the people who appreciate my art. I would like to keep it on the side, I don’t want it to take over my studies and other work. I feel like if I do grow it to a point where it’s huge, then I will lose my passion.”

Resin plates from Arts By Jazzd. Photo by Jasmine Derbas.
  1. What advice would you give to other student business owners?

 “Expect to make mistakes. Nothing is perfect and you learn along the way. Believe in yourself, don’t doubt yourself and just start. If you have something in your mind, start it, what are you going to lose?”

 

Follow Jasmine on @artbtjazzd to view or purchase her products.