November 20, 2019

Can art offer a voice to the silenced?

Pauline McGee, 60

Cold Light is a painting about the plight of refugees who often arrive in our country under cover of darkness. Desperation at leaving their home and family is beyond our comprehension and language often a barrier to communication. I wanted to convey the sense of isolation individuals might feel in the cold light of day and use my art to highlight their situation.

Having worked with survivors of trauma I know how people are silenced through fear, shame and guilt from inability to defend themselves and those they love. Herman (1994) identifies tactics of perpetrators of abuse as organised techniques that instil helplessness and terror destroying the victim’s sense of self in relation to others. Silence can make them feel invisible; in an unfamiliar environment they become invisible.

Offering refugees’ art space within communities in which to re-establish a sense of purpose and direction is as important as form filling. Art is a fundamental, universal language which can overcome barriers, confront the unspeakable and re-establish a sense of identity and purpose. Is finding our voice not the most important aspect of our sense of belonging and contribution to the society we live in?

Herman, J.L. (1992). Trauma

Cold Light, 2016Acrylic and oil pastel50 x 50 cm