‘We were just bankrupt in the end – there was so much debt. There were just no more windows of opportunity anywhere. We exhausted everything. We were always trying to find a way. It got to the point where we just couldn’t pay the bills.
‘We took over the Annandale Hotel in 2000 and quickly realised it was foolish not to have live music on. That was the heart and soul of the place and so live music became part of our lives. But it was never not a drama there – from the minute we bought it we were in court for various reasons. If it wasn’t for the absolute passion that we had for the place and the people there’s no way in the world we could have lasted that long.
‘One day in 2013 we realised that there’s just no way out of this anymore. We told a bunch of friends to come down and we got one of our favourite local bands in the back bar one Sunday night. We drank the bar dry and walked in the bank the next day and handed in the keys.
‘You see people bad mouthing pubs or live music festivals that go under – people don’t go in to these ventures to try and rip people off. They go in to it because they’re passionate or they think it’s worthwhile. You look at things differently once you’ve been through it.
‘When we went bankrupt, it was relieving. There was a big fear of losing the pub but the stress that was on our shoulders was just so intense. It comes with its challenges too. I’ve got another couple of years of bankruptcy.
‘But the freedom of having no money is quite liberating because you can have a go at anything and what have you got to lose? It’s a really different way of looking at things – it’s a very freeing type of mentality.
‘I love Newtown – I’ve been in the area now for 15 years. We’re organising the King Street Crawl which is a celebration of this area. The goal of it is to shine a light on the space and celebrate its diversity as well.’
‘Most of the women I see have this desire to be the perfect mother which is one of the drivers for them getting depressed and anxious. I’m a Professor of Psychiatry specialising in women’s mental health – in particular perinatal mental health. We now have screening for post-natal depression but now we need to help the child and help her parent the child so the inter-generational transmission isn’t happening.
‘The primary carer, which is quite often the mother, is the prototype for every future relationship that this child is going to have. This is where you learn trust and where you learn how to interact. If someone is depressed or so withdrawn because they’ve got psychotic illness, then it makes it really hard.
‘Unfortunately these days we’re trying to be so many things and the result for some people sadly is that they’re not doing any of them well. Guilt keeps coming up again and again – that’s a recurring theme.
‘The reality is kids will suckle the good stuff – anything you’re able to give them. Basically you’ve only got to get it right 30% of the time, try to get it right another 30% and the rest of the time, well the kids will cope!
‘Be bigger, stronger wiser and kind no matter how little you know about parenting – you know more than your child. If you don’t know it, you can find out – ask someone about it.’
‘I spent 3½ years photo-documenting enslaved prostitutes in Cambodia – Vietnamese women who were trafficked across the border.
‘These women were being raped repeatedly. One of the women’s wrists was covered in suicide marks and she was one of the women who knew what she was going in to. The state of mind, the cultural beliefs that are engrained in to these women or young girls, I can’t grasp it. It was a big hurdle for me to get over and I realised I can’t; it’s not a hurdle for me to jump.
‘I was back in Sydney and got an email from the NGO I’d been working with over there saying the raid had been performed and the women had been rescued as a result of my work. Up until that point, I had very little faith in what was happening from the NGO point of view. I got the impression that they were only investigating the shacks (brothels) while I was over there. Unfortunately it took a 9 year old child’s presence in that brothel to perform the rescue. Human trafficking is illegal and the police knew there were women in there that had been trafficked. I asked them what it took to perform a raid and the Cambodian police said to me they had a thousand other brothels like this one, why should they choose this one?
‘This whole experience has definitely challenged me. I had to see two psychiatrists while I was away. It centred me a lot as a person but it’s made me sad. I’ll never forget those women – especially the first girl I photographed – she was crying and curled up in a foetal position.
‘I feel proud now about what I’ve done – knowing that the 9 year old girl is now being educated and the NGO will give her a job when she finishes school as they will with the other women that were rescued in the raid. It’s a breaking of the chain. When the girl grows up, her children will then know they can get an education and get a job.
‘One of my favourite quotes is, “Every waterfall starts with a drop of water”. If I can help someone or inspire someone to do what I did or help in some way, I know I’ve succeeded.’
‘It was very late in life when I finally worked out what I wanted to do. I started at the age of 47. I think sometimes things are meant to happen at ages that you don’t expect things to happen.
‘I don’t wish it had happened earlier. I think my life has panned out just nicely. There were other things I wanted to do. I was convinced I wanted to be a beauty therapist and an actress. I did both of those things and then realised they’re not for me. My passion just naturally changed and I think there is a strong message in that for everyone looking at what they want to do with their life. It’s not too late to change your passion. It was very hard to let go of the acting because I studied for 3 years, did my degree and then wondered how I could possibly stop but I finally gave myself permission to finally let go. This is my new passion and I love what I do.
‘From about 14 I was drawn to vintage clothing. I went through a number of years working in retail, studying acting and always in creative fields. One day I was unhappy with where my life was going. I walked in to an antique shop. I was looking at a shop counter and the guy asked where my shop was. I said that I didn’t have a shop but just loved the counter. He asked me if I did have a shop what would I have and it just came out. I said to him that it would be a vintage clothing shop. I had an epiphany at the moment, walked out and rang my husband and my mum straight away and said to them I know this sounds crazy as I have no stock but I just want to have my own vintage clothing shop. I didn’t buy the counter. Someone else bought the counter and I kick myself to this day that I didn’t but it was the catalyst. It really was like a bolt of lightning. I literally walked on air out of that antique centre because I knew what it was that I finally wanted to do with my life.’
‘I grew up in a creative home & started painting young. Both my parents were artists. Dad’s a sculptor. My mum did study art but went on to study architecture.
‘My mum’s graphic drawing probably influenced my early work more than my current work. I’ve always been quite obsessed with architecture and buildings. My dad’s taught me things over the years – techniques and ideas. He’s good to talk to about art as he’s got a pretty good understanding. I’ve learnt art history and some of that kind of stuff from him as well – just in all the natural ways your parents influence you.
‘I started out writing much more traditional graffiti so I was working with letter structures and formations. It was quite sharp, aggressive, very technical. About 4-5 years ago, the graffiti thing started to get a little bit old for me & I found the structure of traditional graffiti quite restrictive. I was studying art at the time & was doing oil paintings so it was like marrying my oil paintings with my graffiti work. I lost the letter structure completely & started to experiment with figure work & landscape works. It took a few years to get direction but it’s definitely evolved a lot.’
How do you work the concepts on your walls around the Inner West?
‘Sometimes I have ideas in the back of my mind but need to find the right wall. Mostly however, I like to react to space. If I have a wall lined up, I’ll take photographs of it. I’ll play around with different compositions. Everything is very much designed to fit in that space. Sometimes the trees surrounding the walls can influence the way you lay out your composition – the street, the sky, the buildings behind it. Everything can play a part. I think that’s pretty important when you’re a street artist. You’ve got to react to your environment.
‘I’ve got a lot of walls in the Inner West lined up – it’s just finding time to actually paint them and getting funding as well. Hopefully this year I’ll paint about 10 new murals in the Inner West. I’m going to be working overseas quite a lot as well. Just when I’m home I’ll do what I can. I’m going to be back in Europe & America – and in New Zealand as well which is exciting.’
What’s been the best part of working overseas for you personally?
‘Probably just the people I’ve met over the last couple of years. I’ve met really good, interesting people. For me, that’s probably my favourite thing about travelling and working. It’s been so nice to be able to go somewhere and leave your mark a little bit as well. It’s good to be immersed with local artists & local people. Sometimes you’re up a lift & out of the way but sometimes people chat, watch & take photographs. It’s kind of cool being able to produce work & interact with the community at the same time. You get a direct response & a direct feel. It’s nice to know you’re appreciated sometimes as well even if you are just a visual polluter in many ways!’
‘This year has been both good and bad. I had two close friends pass away so that was pretty shit. One died from suicide – hanging herself – and the other one passed away from a motorcycle accident so that was pretty sucky.
‘I’ve met some amazing friends through this year and the support I’ve got from all my friends when I thought I didn’t have many close friends was great. I thought I had friends that were more acquaintances and I didn’t expect them to be as supportive. Maybe I’m just paranoid but it was nice to feel like they actually truly cared and actively wanted to be a part of my life. It’s definitely made me feel better as a person as well.’