Art from the heart

Art from the heart

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Sydney Phillips with his award-winning painting, Despair. Photograph – City of Armadale.

Sydney Phillips’ was given the Aboriginal Artist Award at the Minawarra Art Awards on Friday, April 29, for his painting Desire – a work the artist says expresses 12 years of a personal journey to overcome grief.
Speaking from the back patio of his residence, surrounded by half-finished paintings and overlooking stunning views of Bedfordale’s bushland, Mr Phillips talked of the struggles he has overcome through his art.
“The painting is basically what I’ve been going through in say 12 years of changing my life and changing my ways, the alcohol and things back then, grieving,” Mr Phillips said.
“I’ve been an artist throughout my life. There was school, then I started painting in my late 20s for a couple of years, that was back in Bruce Rock.
“I stopped painting, I was 28 I think, when my daughter passed away.
“You’re grieving but you’re not grieving the right way, you wake up in the morning and a cousin gives you a bottle.
“After my daughter, it was my mother. As soon as she passed away that’s when I thought ‘bang’.
“Mum was very… she was the most kind-hearted woman you would ever meet.
“I was thinking about dad and my brothers – one brother is in a wheelchair and dad is old, you know.
“When my mum passed away, that’s where I had to change, I had to change. And to change for the right.
“And after that change, all of a sudden, the children come into your life and that put me back on track.
“Growing up in Kelmscott and Armadale, that’s pretty hard. Single father back then, when you thought your kids are gone and they won’t come to me but as soon as I gave up that alcohol mate, kids just came to me at that right age.
“But I’ve only been painting again for the past, say, five years. I was painting before then but all the things through my life, ups down, ups down, ups down. You know what I mean?
“I don’t know it’s hard to explain, it’s just opened the doors for things I should have been doing years ago.
“When I really look, really, really look at it, I see a little smirky smile in it. If you really look at it there’s a smirk, it’s like, that’s me. I’ll give it a go. Everything that I’ve taken on I’ve conquered.
“I was a bit upset that day, I had family problems, bit upset and it just came out, so it was the way I was feeling that day.
“I don’t know, people like the darkness, the hollowness of it, like that painting with the eyes, and you really stare at it.
“You see the light but you know things are leaking away. I know it’s eerie, it sounds eerie and I don’t like saying it but leaking away – am I wasting my time and this light’s still going to be above me?
“That painting is basically me and what I’ve been going through. It’s very special, that’s all I could say.”
Surprisingly, while Sydney has won awards for his poetry and recently completed a Diploma of Community Development in New South Wales, the Minnawarra Art Awards is the first art competition the 53-year-old has entered.
When asked how he felt to receive the award, Sydney paused in thought.
“I believe that painting was meant to be. We all got our bit of hope and faith in everything, so to me, yeah, I am proud of it, it’s made me feel proud.
“I was just Sydney Phillips, just a normal painter but now I’m Sydney Phillips the Minnawarra Award winning artist of 2022, it’s amazing.
“I think that’s what it is, I can smile now, proud, and I can move forward.”