Western Suburbs Weekly - - Front Page - TANYA MACNAUGHTON

ARTIST Mikaela Cas­tle­dine is the first to ad­mit to not be­ing an intrepid trav­eller, but she has al­ways wanted to visit Burma.

Her mother and grand­mother were forced to flee Rangoon (now Yan­gon) dur­ing the Ja­panese bomb­ing in 1942.

“Mum was eight and they left on Christ­mas Day, leav­ing all her toys be­hind, to es­cape,” Cas­tle­dine said.

“She al­ways talked about Burma, but never wanted to go back. It was a bit of a myth­i­cal place for us.”

Cas­tle­dine, who works in pa­per col­lage and cro­chet sculp­tures, was awarded the Sculp­ture by the Sea, Cottes­loe schol­ar­ship in 2013 for her work Tokyo Crows and used the prize money to fund a trip in 2014 with artist hus­band Stephen to her fam­ily’s home­land.

“My mum is 82 and has Alzheimer’s, so when I went there I wanted to find her mem­o­ries,” Cas­tle­dine said.

“It was very much about me go­ing to those places. I found where she was born and the church she was bap­tised in and things like that be­cause those mem­o­ries were no longer avail­able to me through mum.”

Her ex­pe­ri­ence has inspired her latest ex­hi­bi­tion Reli­quar­ies, show­ing at Lin­ton and Kay Su­bi­aco from July 25 to Au­gust 9, fea­tur­ing 30 col­lage pic­tures and eight sculp­tures.

“When­ever I do an ex­hi­bi­tion from a trip, I take thou­sands of photos and spend a year just im­mersed in those im­ages, so I couldn’t have done the ex­hi­bi­tion with­out the trip,” Cas­tle­dine said.

“It is a record of what I saw, but also what I felt when I was there.

“In my ex­hi­bi­tion I talk about Burma and not me and mum, be­cause for me, I was try­ing to go back to a time as well as a place.

“I was try­ing to go back in time to the Burma she and my grand­mother had known, rather than the mod­ern place.”

Cas­tle­dine said the ex­hi­bi­tion’s ti­tle stemmed from how she re­garded her art – as a place where she kept her ideas, thoughts and mem­o­ries safe.

Her piece Reli­quary, fea­tur­ing a young girl asleep un­der a glass bell, is one ex­am­ple of this.

“My grand­mother al­ways used to tell me a story about her hol­i­days in Man­dalay where they would go for day trips up to a place called Min­goon which had the big­gest bell in the world at the time,” Cas­tle­dine said.

“When she was eight, she and her broth­ers naugh­tily wrote their names in­side the bell.

“I was told it was prob­a­bly just a story, but when I went there, the bell is as big as a room and you crawl un­der the rim and stand in­side, the en­tire in­side of the bell was cov­ered in names.

“I re­alised her name was some­where there un­der all those names where she wrote it a hun­dred years ago. It was such a mov­ing mo­ment to be in the same spot.”

Pic­ture: An­drew Ritchie­mu­ni­ d440806

Artist Mikaela Cas­tle­dine.

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