Atrabilious: Depression of the Spirit, 2007

Atrabilious: Depression of the Spirit. 20 mt drawing installation.

Charcoal rubbings of dying trees as a statement for experiencing suicidal tendencies, mental illness and recovery. Artist statement located below gallery with extra info links..

Atrabilious is available for exhibition including technique workshop and artist talk. Whole installation is available for acquisition . POA

Pls inquire


Head page

Head page


 Inspiration for this installation came from the drought, which has brought about the death of many of Australia’s unique waterways and exquisite native trees. Depression of the Spirit relates not only to the withering spirit of the trees themselves but ourselves as residents living through the hardship incurred through the drought – living through the harsh reality of losing livestock, crops, or farms. We battle a depression within ourselves and our world, as we witness an environment in its death throes and our culture in decline.

Trees that were once so mighty, standing tall and proud, full of life, were blindly taken for granted. Their strength and endurance provided the air breathed by generations of people, but they are now so fragile that their once vital breathe is now a memory etched in the desiccated trucks and limbs that clog our dying waterways. These skeletal figures are a sad indictment of humanity’s failed relationship with nature, so much so that one senses the environment has conceded to defeat as the vertical becomes horizontal. This same process of mortification is endemic in the human condition and specifically with our relationship to the environment; it’s physical destruction indicative of our spiritual inertia and discontent. We, as they, are losing hope. This work questions the long term viability of both natural ecosystems and civilization, insisting that each is inextricably linked to the other.

              Over a twelve month period, through much travel and exploration, I sourced these fallen monoliths for their unique textures; their forms, sizes and lines and expression of the lives they had lived. More often than not I stumbled across these trees by chance; throughout the Riverina, along the banks of the once mighty Murray River and other wetlands of the northern region of Victoria.

              I chose sections of each particular tree that evoked an emotional response from me, and then proceeded to take these spasmodic, erratic and seemingly chaotic rubbings of these textures. Using wet and dry charcoal, sections of paper 160 cm in height and of varying widths were laid across the trees for the rubbings to be taken. This has been a full body drawing experience, the trees and paper being larger than myself. I then returned to my studio and began to rework each individual piece. I searched through the chaos of marks that each friend had given me, and drew out the skeletal formations and symbolic scenes of melancholic desperation. This revealed the nightmare of drought through images and voices that made themselves available to me. Recording each individual tree’s markings has ironically evoked a freshness of life, as through death comes rebirth and regeneration. The materials used are intentionally related; tree, paper, charcoal and water. Without the one there cannot be the other. Without the muse there can be no art.

              My intention is to engulf the audience in these visually textual images, just as the gallery walls are engulfed, to enable a sense of being “in” the drawings themselves. This is certainly to challenge, if not overwhelm the audience. However, the response elicited is not only emotional, for as much as depression is a form of living death, it can and should inspire a sense of revelation, creating light and understanding through tragedy.


Links for Atrabilious

Life and art, part three: Talking with Konii Burns