For Japanese-Australian Hiromi Tango, art has always been an outlet to express her deepest, darkest thoughts.
The contemporary artist can now openly discuss her struggle with anxiety and depression, but that wasn’t always the case.
Growing up in regional Japan, she was silent for much of her childhood.
“My mother was never allowed to speak in the presence of males,” she said.
“I grew up in silence, so art was my self-expression.
“I was a very introverted child.”
Now based in Tweed Heads, Ms Tango has spent decades dedicating her work to exploring the mental health benefits of engaging with art.
She is one of dozens of Australian artists featured in the Frame of Mind program — a series of exhibitions and panel discussions in Sydney and Perth, which aim to explore how art is used as a tool to help cope with mental health challenges.
Two exhibitions are being held as part of the program — Dark Side currently being shown in Perth, and John Olsen: Goya’s Dog, which is due to open at the National Art School in Sydney on June 11.
“Everybody has a dark side, a place of fear and dread they go to voluntarily or not,” Professor Ted Snell, Dark Side curator, said.
“Managing that part of our lives is crucial to health and wellbeing, as COVID-19 has highlighted.”
Professor Snell said art was often used as a coping mechanism for those dealing with mental health problems.
“It’s both a release and an escape.
“A lot of the issues that in many ways we can’t deal with in our communities, we can deal with in art.”
As a member of the Stolen Generations, art became a sanctuary for Noongar woman Sharyn Egan.
“I spent my childhood wishing and hoping that things were better,” she said.
“We were taken away from our parents and treated like dogs and then we’d watch the Brady Bunch on television and it was so perfect, while our lives were like hell.”
The artist sought solace in making baby dolls out of sardine cans and scraps of fabric.
Her artwork, Our Babies, is featured in the Dark Side exhibition.
“Although we didn’t have role models about how to love, we had love to give, and we expressed that in the great pleasure we had in making dolls,” she said.
“I’ve incorporated gravel from all around Noongar land as a way of representing that connection to country, which we never lost.”
Carla Adams’ uncomfortable encounters on the dating app Tinder inspired her artwork being displayed in the Dark Side exhibition.
After receiving a string of offensive messages on the app, Ms Adams decided to weave portraits of the men who sent them to her.
“I make these portraits of these men that I matched with, and then are aggressive to me,” she said.
“I construct a bit of an identity for them … I suppose I humanise them.
The Dark Side exhibition is now showing in Perth until June 17.
John Olsen: Goya’s Dog is set to open at the National Art School in Sydney from June 11 until August 7.
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