Exhibition comes from contemplation
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Exhibition comes from contemplation

Wishbones arranged in constellations, a wooden boat, a haunting self-portrait, a woven glass eel trap - there are many ways to express what is sacred when you're an artist.

For Benita Tunks, it was the death of a young relative that put things into perspective for her, and led her to dream up an exhibition.

At M16 Artspace for the exhibition Sacred are  (from left) Artists Marcus Tutton, Mary Kayser,  Bruce Tunks and Fatima Killeen.

At M16 Artspace for the exhibition Sacred are (from left) Artists Marcus Tutton, Mary Kayser, Bruce Tunks and Fatima Killeen.Credit:Katherine Griffiths

She invited 10 artists working in different styles to contemplate the reason behind their work, and what they found most important in life.

A year or so later, and the results are on display at M16 Gallery in Griffith.

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''I thought it would be a great exhibition to take that notion and challenge other artists, and it was an experiment because I wanted to see if we all came up with the same thing, which we didn't, which was really nice,'' Tunks said.

''There were things that were really universal, which is love and connection to others, but there were also other things, like being an artist and knowing that that's what you're born to do, and following that vision or that urge.

''Why do half of these people even do what they do when they don't get money and they don't get accolades? It's in us, we have to do it.''

Moroccan-born Canberra artist Fatima Killeen said she had been following events in the Arab world closely, and had reflected on what was sacred to people from those areas.

''I knew after the uprising in the Arab world, peace was the thing that we were desperate for, so that's the thing that was a sacred for us but also the thing that was missing,'' she said.

A key part of her installation, The shroud has no pockets, is a shroud rising out of an ammunition box, inscribed with prayers and a reminder that we take nothing with us when we die.

In his starbursts of splintered wood, Marcus Tatton wanted to convey the infinity of the unknown universe.

''I look at the ever-expanding universe as non-comprehensible, and I have this innate sense of awe and it places me as a very small element within the wider context,'' he said.

''It feeds my artwork daily, that sense of not actually being able to control any of it, so my point of view is one of immense respect and immense depth of awe. For me, these are the best way that I could express the sacred feeling.''

Mary Kayser decided very quickly that her work would focus on family. Of Hungarian descent, she grew up with her mother's childhood stories.

''That whole continuum of our family in Hungary and the journey coming to here has been very important to me … her memories are really sacred and something that I want to protect,'' she said.

Her installation is made of different materials that represent different spaces in time - granite, buffalo hide, glass, steel and wood.

Bruce Tunks says the desert is a place that soothes him, and he has evoked a desert landscape in his canvas.

''They are places that put me into a meditative state. They probably have an effect on me different to other people,'' he said.

''You have a tendency the first time you go out into a desert to see one big empty open space, but it works the other way on me.

''What that environment tends to do is make me focus on all of the details.''

Sacred is showing at M16 Artspace until December 1.

Sally Pryor is a reporter at The Canberra Times.

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