As we continue to look back on all the wonderful young people we met during Youth Week in April 2023, this week Mona publishes the multimedia work of Annabelle Shakleton, a young artist who uses her talent with the brush to paint a political message.
As an artist I believe it is vital to use our skills to educate, express and advocate. One of my most important paintings created within the past year is based on a topic very close to my heart – the attack on Ukraine. The attack on Ukraine is an attack on freedom. It is a statement against independence, and it is an attempt to dissolve Ukraine’s culture.
Art was never something I connected with until late in Year 10 when I saw a TED Ed video analysing Vermeer’s 'Girl with a Pearl Earring', an artwork I fell in love with.
Vermeer was a significant inspiration for this work, specifically his tronie ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’. This influence is demonstrated through the focal point of my painting, the girl wearing a Vinok, mirroring ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ as Vermeer composes this painting with his subject, who is also a young girl, staring into the viewers eyes, connecting the onlooker to herself. As if she were aware of her surroundings, ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ makes a direct connection with the viewer. It makes you consider how many other people have looked into those same painted eyes and felt this same connection. Vermeer removes the curtain that separates art and the viewer with this piece by making her a psychological subject. This is what I most wanted to echo within my own work as it forces the viewer to intimately bond with this innocent subject and feel her pain.
Another similarity is found within the attire that both these subjects share. ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ wears what is assumed to be an oriental turban. This represents the cultural exchange that was occurring in Delft, home of Vermeer, during this time. I appropriated this concept in my own work by having my subject wear a Vinok, a traditional Ukrainian head piece worn by unmarried women and young girls. The flowers I decorated the crown in are sunflowers, the tractional flower of Ukraine. Smaller blue flowers can also be seen, exhibiting the national colours of Ukraine- blue and yellow. The petals falling off of this Vinok represents the destruction of the culture that continues to arise with this annexation. The newspaper clippings create an element of realism to my piece as it enforces the fact that this destruction is tangible and present. I sourced clippings from different countries in various languages to demonstrate that this is a global threat and effects humanity, not just one nation.
My heart goes out to all those impacted as I see the Ukraine women, not unlike myself, girls my age, with similar dreams and hopes – suddenly shattered as they face incredible hardship and loss. This work is a reminder that we must not forget our Ukraine sisters. We must use our freedoms, our art, and our voice to support and bring awareness.
Annabelle Shakleton is currently completing her HSC, studying art amongst other subjects. She has exhibited her artwork within her school and hopes to showcase her work in the local community. 'The Ukrainian Girl' is her first oil painting.