(Written by Michael Grealy- April 2020- OVER ONE YEAR AGO!)
There are some things in life that change your life forever. For me, “The Drover” by Greg Wilson is one of those things. This painting made me stop and consider “Everything”. Not just life … life is just “surface-rubbish” … this painting made me consider the meaning of it All and whether there is in fact, meaning in any of it.
I am representing this painting because of the story that goes along with it- there’s something in this painting that stirs me … about the story of Greg’s life and my own. Greg and myself are so connected, even though we never met.
Greg Wilson, is an Australian painter and artist who achieved much Australian and international acclaim for his work. His paintings in particular have a “magical-quality” that elude much art these days- they seamlessly bring together the artist’s heart / soul, with the technical skills of a Master. The way Greg communicates emotion through brushstrokes is an extraordinary thing- there’s depth in all his artwork that immediately draws you in and maintains your attention.
Greg is no longer with us in a physical sense … the reasons for this are something we may never come to know. Greg spoke freely about many things … most people don’t. I am one of the people who don’t. In this piece of writing … a piece that virtually no-one will ever read … it is easier for me to finally talk openly … and express needs to be said.
I am not ashamed anymore. I did not choose to be this way … perhaps I was chosen … that sounds far from humble. This painting was painted by a man who suffered depression and spoke openly and honestly about it. And Greg is prompting me to speak out about my mental-health struggles with bipolar disorder. This painting was sold in a charity auction in 2002 when Greg Wilson was still with us. The funds raised from the sale were donated to Beyond Blue, an organisation committed to finding answers to our current mental-health pandemic … a pandemic that’s taking away so many of our loved ones. This painting searches for answers even today, years after it was painted… just as Greg intended.
I am representing this painting because I also want to raise awareness about mental-health issues and Beyond Blue. I too have suffered … in silence … out of guilt and shame. But exactly why I feel such shame is beyond me because I have not chosen to be this way. It is something that’s with me virtually every hour of every day and there are many times I cannot seem to control it.
Greg told the current custodian of this painting the story behind it. And it is through the current custodian I can re-tell his story. I hope I do the story justice…
This painting shows an Australian Drover who, after a long time away, is finally home. He is relaxing in the thought that his job is done. Home is so close to him; he can feel it. (In fact, anyone who looks at this painting can feel it.) Greg told the current custodian that this painting expresses that feeling of relief and success that comes after dedicating oneself to a job for a long period of time. For Greg, it was about coming out of months of depression and finally finding his way back home…
I can see this … I can feel it … as much as it would be easier and “tidier” to say I cannot. I can feel what Greg is expressing and when an artist can do that, it is truly an extraordinary thing. The drover is exhausted … of course he is … we can all imagine what a severe bout of clinical depression would do to anyone. But what we can’t see is the whole story … we do not see the reasons for his exhaustion and in fact do not really see his exhaustion at all, we just feel it. When we look at this painting, we cannot truly understand it all and I believe this is what Greg intended. When we come out of a bout of depression, we do not see the reasons for it. In our lifetime we may never see all the reasons. There is purpose in the exhaustion and blackness we feel in life even though “God” may never show us these reasons.
As much as we try and grapple with depression and mental-health issues- as much as we try to get answers, I believe that we as a society have no real answers. I have some authority to speak here but please do not think I am any real authority… I am still grappling for answers myself… virtually every day.
I think the only thing I’ve learnt about mental health issues, through my own experience and my many hospitalisations … (and I’d rather not reflect back now to find out “my number”) … is that we as a society, are only still grappling. The true answers have never really been cast into the light and perhaps in my lifetime they never will be.
The answers to mental health issues are not drugs- prescription pharmaceuticals- though this seems to be the only solution available in Westernised countries. Please do not misunderstand me… I am alive because of pharmaceuticals … without prescription drugs for depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or any other label they want to give me I would have killed myself long ago. I have no doubt about that … there is only so much pain a body can take before you must end it. These pharmaceuticals are valuable in modern-day life where our lives are as far from “natural” as they have ever been. Pharmaceuticals can help us cope with the physical feelings of blackness when there is no way we can possibly feel them. But to think that pharmaceuticals are “the answer”- the long-term solution to this pandemic- is foolish. If these pharmaceuticals were the long-term solution, this pandemic would be basically gone because the drugs have been readily available for so many years now. You don’t need me to tell you this pandemic has reached crisis-point. Beyond Blue and the many other organisations shedding light onto what’s happening will tell you that the current mental-health pandemic has certainly NOT gone away since these pharmaceuticals hit the scene…
But to talk about problems without at least trying to find solutions is irresponsible … in fact, it’s idiotic really. I believe there are solutions but we, as a society, are not ready for the solutions … some of us are but the majority of us do not want to see what we don’t have to.
I have recently read quite a lot about Greg Wilson including his book, “My Brush With Depression” (co-written with Aaron Cootes). I could not put the book down. It hit a raw nerve. Greg said something in this book that really struck me. He said, “I don’t feel at home in this life”.
I believe this might just be a key to finding solutions for this mental-health pandemic. If everyone in our mental hospitals, prisons and community who feel that life is not worth living were asked, “WHY don’t you feel at home in this life?” and given the opportunity to fully explore their answer and really be listened to, the answers to this mental-health crisis would become obvious.
I posed this question to myself …
“Why don’t I feel at home in this life?”
When I meditated, this is the answer that came…. For a lot of my life particularly when I was young adult, I would have felt more at home in one of our prisons than I do in our society. For most of my life I have not felt free to do what I want in this life, so much so, that much of my life has felt like I’ve been in prison. Being in an actual prison (a low-security one) would have been far easier. I would have had a home- a place I could just be and move in a direction that came naturally. In prison I believe I would have written books- my basic needs would have been met, I would have had time for physical activity, meditation, preparing food / helping in the kitchen, reading and contemplation. And I would have been able to do what I’ve feel I’m supposed to do with this life (which is write books).
The fact that I’m almost 47 years old and don’t have a “home” contributes to me not feeling at home in this world. How could I possibly feel “at home”? I have nowhere to go where I can feel truly at peace with myself and this world- where I feel completely safe. I believe this is part of the reason I don’t feel at home in this world. I dream for there to be places in Australia (close to work opportunities / cities) where people can go and feel completely safe and peaceful.
Mental health issues are not just a “thing” some of us in society must deal with every day. Mental health issues are what our society is- society itself has become insane. Our mental health pandemic is simply a reflection of what our society has become. Insane behaviour does not come from nothing … behaviour is a reflection of what we see and feel around us every day. Mental-health issues have become such a crisis in today’s society … such a pandemic … because our society is insane. This is not a ground-breaking comment to make. Any one of us who is truly being honest can see the insanity around us every day. Those of us who are displaying “insane behaviour” are simply reflecting what life around them is. And anyone who is getting upset at this and saying that only an insane person would make such a comment has their eyes closed.
The solutions to this pandemic are quite simple but what is needed to achieve these; that seems almost impossible. How can we create safe places where “regular-people” can live (free if needed) and feel at home if this is not a priority of our government? The Australian government seems only intent on destruction- destroying wilderness and digging up our earth to get fossil fuels- it seems to be all about money and greed. I can’t see them making any effort to create safe (and free) places for people to just be.
In saying this though, I do NOT believe Australia and the world is as doomed as so many people would say. I believe that people respond to kindness and love much more than they respond to hate, greed and destruction. Show anyone a genuine shred of kindness and you’ll immediately see a ray of light go out into our world. The same can be said about hate- from hate we have seen many rays of light extend into this world… And yes, that comment is hard to make sense of … We have all heard of the atrocities of WW2, the genocide, but there has been so much kindness come from that hate too (in the form of understanding individual differences, forgiveness, respect and obviously regret). Regret is simply kindness upside-down. Kindness always wins … it has in the past and it will in the future …
“The Drover”- this Greg Wilson painting – and the other paintings I’ve seen of Greg’s online have sparked so much in me. I feel this is what Greg intended. Good art initiates discussion- good art lets one see things for oneself. I could talk about the way this painting makes me feel but art is about how it makes you feel. I could discuss Greg’s magical use of colour- how the sky is primarily dark and ominous but still has a bright quality as well. I could discuss his use of the dry barren Australian landscape to depict the desolate feeling he’s conveying here … where everything is dry and barren- where life itself has become “lifeless”. I could discuss the hint of greenness on the horizon- the gentle signs of life ahead … the “lightness” there- a hint of purity and cleansing.
When I look at this painting there is a lump in my throat … from being able to say so much but from keeping quiet for so long… From wanting to delete all that has been typed here tonight, but from knowing I shouldn’t. I see this painting and understand that it is when we choose to keep quiet … we say the most.
When we delete what’s hard to say, we lack courage … we are accepting things the way they are … and resigning ourselves to the feeling we have the power to change nothing. When I look at this painting, I realise I have lacked so much courage. I have been courageous by not killing myself but in keeping my truth a secret I have served no-one … especially myself.
If I delete what has been written here tonight, I am choosing to continue to believe that when I shut my mouth and not say what’s inside, I am doing myself and the world a favour… I am not.
On the surface, all of what has been written here makes no sense and will be made fun of by some people. But these days I really don’t care, because I know the truth …
I know that hate is for cowards.
I know that it takes so much more courage NOT to submit to hate than it does to stand up and say, “LOVE will win… And hate NEVER will.”
It takes courage to say that love is all around us and it will win, if we all just take a moment out for ourselves.
And I believe that love… the love in us ALL … the love we have for our neighbourhood, our community, our country … our world, is the world’s answer to depression…
… There is no other answer…
This painting, “The Drover” by Greg Wilson has sparked something in me that makes me want to buy it for myself (which is incredible because I don’t get attached anything these days). If a piece of art can do that … if it was displayed in my home (a home I don’t have at the moment!) I would hope that all my friends (and I’m chuckling here because I have virtually none!) … If I had this painting up at home, I know it would begin a commentary of what’s important to those I choose to have in my life. I know it would prompt people to experience more of Greg’s extraordinary talent and extraordinary work. And there’s such breadth to his work- there are paintings of Greg’s that make me know he had so many happy times as well. … But recently Greg’s good times have been very hard to find online. Greg’s website was taken down for some years. Seeing his “happy paintings” gave me such peace until I could no longer see them anymore…It is difficult to see an artist’s work that is all doom and gloom. Greg’s life was as colourful and vivid as his paintings- I did not need to read Greg’s book to know there were many good times too. I can clearly see that (and feel it) in his array of paintings (which can be seen in Greg’s book, “My Brush with Depression”).
“The Drover” by Greg Wilson (and this resulting commentary) has sparked so much in me that it is my wish that the person who invests in this painting will do good with it. I would like to think our government would want to invest in this piece and display it in as many public places as possible … maybe even a mental hospital- those dry sterile places devoid of all colour and life…
But I don’t believe our government would appreciate this piece as much as it should.
My wish is that a private collector will buy it and put it up in a place where it will spark commentary in the people who see it. Business-people often question how they can get their staff to access fresh, new and exciting ideas… The answer is VERY simple …
…Something that’s truly creative will spark creativity in those who come in contact with it- just as this painting has done in me.
My final dilemma is how to price a piece such as this. The thing I’ve learnt in almost 20 years of running iNVISeDGE is that the value of anything is what someone is prepared to pay for it. The only solution to my pricing dilemma is to put it “in auction”- to keep price out of the equation. This piece is open to offers for the next few months or so. At the end of that time I will take ALL offers to my vendor and discuss the one we will accept.
My vendor and myself are looking for the right person/organisation who will value, respect and love this piece as much as my vendor and I do…
I believe this is what Greg himself would want…