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Q&A with artist Hadyn Wilson

‘The Library represents a temple dedicated to ideas ... It is a place built for quiet contemplation and respect for the process of learning and thinking. There are not many places left in the world that can offer that.’

It was the rarely seen paintings and quirky objects that artist Hadyn Wilson became fascinated with during his residency at the Library.⁣ A canvas bag full of cowrie shells, a snakeskin, a logbook written in seal blood, light-sensitive or incomplete portraits out of public view in the underground pictures store.⁣

As the Library’s fifth Artist in Residence, Wilson researched the artists, the subjects and the objects before making real and imagined connections between them.⁣ His resulting artworks, the associated objects and accompanying stories are now part of an exhibition in our Amaze Gallery. ⁣

Here's what he had to share about his experience.

Hadyn Wilson in the Amaze Gallery

What inspired you to take up an artist residency at the Library?

Being narrative based, my work has always relied on history and library collections. After finding out about the artist-in-residence program it seemed like the perfect fit for me given the way I normally work.

How would you describe the Library to people who have never visited before?

To me, the Library represents a temple dedicated to ideas. It still has the quiet reverence and atmosphere of something like a church. The main hall in the Mitchell Library is a stunning piece of architecture and its skylight floods the space with a luminous glow. It is a place built for quiet contemplation and respect for the process of learning and thinking. There are not many places left in the world that can offer that. 

Amaze Gallery What has been the most surprising discovery you’ve made in the Library’s collection as part of your residency? 

Having finally put all the elements together (and a debt of thanks goes to Pru Smith, who was a great help in researching so many of these artists, and to Avryl Whitnall, who curated the display), it would be hard to nominate one story, as so many were inspiring and often surprising.

Winifred Redmond was an extraordinary woman whose eyes stared out of a burnt canvas with a defiance that caused goose bumps. On researching her life as a convict sent from Ireland, I found her survival and fortitude staggering. I was also struck by the wonderful relationship Henry Lawson had with his daughter, Bertha; George Lambert’s complex relationship with fellow artist Thea Proctor; Jane and George King and their dedication to Aboriginal education in colonial Western Australia, and many more.

Perhaps my favourite, after all, was the story about Ada Windle, who died at the age of six and for me symbolised all the lost potential of children who die young. I gave her the greatest resume of all.

Can you tell us more about your project Fake Truths: An Historical Novel?

I see this project as an opportunity to expand the idea of how an artwork can be understood by making paintings and various writings co-dependent. Rather than acting as descriptions of paintings, the texts complete the experience of looking at the painted components of each story and the associated realia. Perhaps an insistence on these written elements resembles the idea behind a ‘picture book’, which is fine by me.

My interpretations of the actual paintings found in the Library racks included the incidental effects of lights in that area and the reflections of figures looking at the works, which were important additions to the ‘journalistic’ nature of this project. The QR codes attached to a number of the exhibits expand the stories in the form of short films and add another dimension to the ‘room brochures’.

Which part of the Library do you find most inspiring and why?

I find the Friends Room most inspiring for two reasons. The first is the excellent coffee machine in the corner and the other is being surrounded by the extraordinary collection of books dedicated to one novel, Cervantes’ Don Quixote. This was one of the first novels I read as a young man and is a celebration of the creative journey and the life of the imagination. Nothing could be more inspiring than to sit in the comfortable chairs, sipping good coffee and reflecting on Cervantes’ world.