Reflection and Respite: The Big Anxiety Festival Exhibition at Fisher Library

Detail from Reflection and Respite by Ross Richardson

One of the simplest and most immediately accessible ways to lift your mood is a walk in the countryside or along the beach. Can spending time in front of a piece of art have a similar effect?

Influenced by recent research work on biophilia and ecopsychology, artists Emma and Ross propose that observing, drawing and even colouring in natural forms can help to reduce blood pressure, improve immune responses, and help alleviate anxiety. Art and nature in this sense combine to provide an antidote, and looking at images of nature can enhance a calm meditation. The concepts of mandalas, symmetry and balance are explored in the context of compositions which promote reflection and respite from the busyness of everyday life. 

Reflection and Respite exhibition, Fisher Library by Dr Emma Robertson and Ross Richardson

This exhibition in glass vitrines is on three levels of the Fisher Library at the University of Sydney, and the installation is also inspired by the setting of the Library, and the conventions of scientific illustration. Quotations from books relating to anxiety are integrated into the displays.

Supported by Scientia Education Fellowship, UNSW and The Fisher Library, The University of Sydney.

Detail from Reflection and Respite exhibition, Fisher Library by Dr Emma Robertson and Ross Richardson

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Reflection and Respite is part of the Big Anxiety Fesitival, Australia’s largest mental health festival.

The Big Anxiety brings together artists, scientists and communities to question and re-imagine the state of mental health in the 21st century.

A radically new kind of international arts festival, in which every project is an open conversation, designed to promote curiosity, awareness and action, The Big Anxiety presents events across Sydney, tackling the major anxieties of our times, as well as the stresses and strains of everyday life.

Whether through hi-tech interactive environments or one-on-one dialogues, our goal is to create the rich engagements we need for our collective mental health.

The Big Anxiety is an initiative of UNSW Sydney in association with the Black Dog Institute and partners in the cultural, education and health sectors.

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Artist Biography

Dr Emma Robertson is an award winning artist, whose work is in seven public collections in four countries. The Hospital Trust for Scotland purchased two works for their permanent collection, which were commissioned by the Scottish Arts Council for the exhibition Wordworks. Emma’s work has been competitively selected for a public art commission for a Hospice, for the Adelaide Perry Prize for Drawing, the JADA, and four International Biennials of Drawing. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Scientia Education Fellow / Associate Professor at UNSW, and a previous Artist in Residence at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Her expertise in education relating to entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity at University and Executive Education levels has seen her win three prestigious teaching awards. Her PhD at The University of Sydney explored biophilia, ecopsychology, and artistic, nature-based antidotes to anxiety.

Ross Richardson studies illustration at the University of Edinburgh, and he is inspired by the natural environment, people, patterns, and landscape. His work has been competitively selected three times for the Mosman Youth Art Prize. He has received Highly Commended notifications for the Camden Art Prize, the Nan Manefield Youth Writer’s Award, and the Young Archies. Ross has also been selected for the Hunters Hill Art Exhibition, the Waverley Youth Art Prize, the Royal Art Society of NSW Youth Artist Prize, and the Hornsby Art Prize. In 2015 he won First Place in the Wollongong University Design Award for NSW. His work in this exhibition features watercolours, and also polymer clay three dimensional forms.

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Visit Reflection and Respite, 27 September – 31 October 2019 at Fisher Library levels 2, 3 & 4.

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