We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.

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Winner: People's Choice 2021

Julia Ciccarone The sea within

oil on canvas

101.5 x 183.5 cm

Julia Ciccarone’s painting is a self-portrait. ‘In The sea within, I am wrapped in a blanket I had as a child, resting my head on a suitcase my father brought to Australia from Italy when he migrated in the 1950s,’ says Ciccarone. ‘Suitcases relate to our body. They are like hollow vessels waiting to be filled with stories, memories and knowledge. My hair is wet and I am barefoot, paint-stained brushes in my hand.

‘Water is a universal symbol of the unconscious mind. Whenever I dive into the ocean, I am diving into my own subconscious, awake and aware. Oceans symbolise power, strength, life, mystery, hope and truth. They are also equated with chaos as they are boundless and ungovernable.

‘I painted this picture last year when Melbourne was still in COVID-lockdown. Bushfires ravaged the state. Life was intense and overwhelming. We are all experiencing radical changes affecting both culture and nature. It is a time of great uncertainty. We share in a collective trauma. But the ocean – which features large in my life and art – is my healing place.’

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