As students come into Year 11 and 12, they can struggle with the reality of the year ahead. They may think, ‘Will I succeed, or will all my creativity be suppressed under the pressures?’ After meeting the artist Asphyxia at Marymede Catholic College, my students were inspired.
Asphyxia is profoundly deaf and communicates using Auslan and through her interpreter. The students felt she was able to understand where they were, emotionally, creatively and spiritually, so she soon became the hero of the classroom. Looking back, Asphyxia spoke about the importance of learning touch-typing, sign language, creative and professional writing, small business management and marketing and the practical skills of sewing, knitting, painting, drawing, sculpting and building – yes, Asphyxia built her own house.
Asphyxia came from a family of mathematicians and engineers. When she was at school she wanted to be a ballet dancer, but, being deaf, she didn’t have the opportunity to pursue that professionally. Asphyxia began her creative career as a puppet-maker, performer and children’s storybook writer – her books on The Grimstones may be in your library. Asphyxia’s workshops were simple but spellbinding as she took the students through the materials and processes she uses to develop her characters. Her work inspired all my students but had a particular impact on one who is hearing impaired. This student was transfixed, taking in every tip on how to take more confident steps in her use of art materials and processes.
Asphyxia visited Marymede Catholic College in South Morang three times. Her first visit focused on how students might choose a topic about which to make art. She talked about the importance of inspiration from other artists and how she had learnt from their work. Then, Asphyxia showed the work in her portfolios and discussed how she creates an aesthetic mood through her choice of materials and techniques. She uses markers, homemade stamps, stencils with water-based spray paints, water-soluble crayons mixed with gesso and charcoal to achieve an aesthetic that is both rough and emotionally charged but at the same time, very beautiful and soft. Asphyxia believes that art in life adds value, making life richer and more worthwhile.
On her second and third visits, Asphyxia ran hands-on workshops. Firstly, in stencil making and later in developing the character and characteristics of a female face. For Asphyxia, her characters act as alter egos through which she lives out her emotional responses to life’s situations. As the students developed their ideas, she made individual suggestions to each on materials and processes. Her stories and work captivated the entire art group so much that one student said, “Our best days became the days we spent in the art room improving our techniques and recognising the artist that we were all becoming.”
VCE Art & Visual Communication Design Teacher
Marymede Catholic College, South Morang