As artist in residence on the oncology ward at the Royal Hobart Hospital, Dawn Csutoros was separate from the staff and neither being a close family member, found herself in a somewhat unusual position as someone people, patients, family members and staff, could talk to without the burden of having to protect their loved ones, or being seen through a clinical perspective. As an artist, Csutoros was simply someone who was there, observing, listening, engaging and responding. Over an eight week period Dawn worked on site at the Oncology Ward creating a new body of work consisting of large scale pastel and pigments drawings on paper. She would often work late into the night when the hospital transformed from a highly organised machine to a more human and fragile environ.
“The depth of courage and love I have seen over the two months long residency has been intensely moving. The support and camaderie amongst patients was amazing. I remember walking in to say hi to Trixie one night and there across the bed from her was Terrie, both of them bouncing off each other, offering support as they shared both laughter, tears and sandwiches through very difficult and challenging times together.
I will never forget the demonstration of humanity from the husband who visited his ex partner every day from morning till night, the lady who had recovered a lost relationship of 20 years with her brother and found peace again, the woman who allowed me to journey through her recently found happiness in love, and to everyone who reclaimed and celebrated again the joys in the small things in life.
It very quickly brings everything into perspective and brought home to me that living and dying are part of the same thing; we are all in the process of living and we are all in the process of dying – some of us are simply further along this continuum than others.
Life itself is fragile and beautiful, but it seems times of crisis enable us to touch its deeper magic and meaning. With my drawings, I have used formalist elements of color and light to explore the ethereal theme of the thresholds of being.
Many patients made it clear that it was the emotional and spiritual aspect of their experience that was the most difficult to bear. So I tried to touch and explore these dimensions of their and of course our own existence. I have attempted to offer a space which invites and accommodates a certain group of sensations and it is within this that the content lies.”
“..what has validity is the life that you lead everyday, that is the only life you have, and without understanding it, you will never understand either love, beauty or death.” – Krishnamurti