Art connects family in a time of COVID-19

Tayla Wetherall diary sketches for her work Don't you forget about me 2020 (detail).

Tayla Wetherall diary sketches for her work Don't you forget about me 2020 (detail).

Published by Grace Cole    |   22 September 2021

AGWA Pulse Youth Advisory Panel member Grace Cole recently spoke to this year’s Pulse Perspectives artist Tayla Wetherall about her work Don’t you forget about me. Created while Tayla was studying Year 12 ATAR Visual Arts at Iona Presentation College, it focuses on themes of family connections and the passage of time. These themes resonated with Cole upon her first viewing of the work at the Pulse Perspectives exhibition and she shares her reflections on the piece below.

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Pulse Perspectives AGWA installation view. Tayla Wetherall with her work Don't you forget about me 2020.

Pulse Perspectives AGWA installation view, August 2021. Tayla Wetherall with her work Don't you forget about me 2020. Oil on canvas, 91 x 61 cm. Iona Presentation College.

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About The Artwork

Impressively executed, Don't you forget about me is a poignant artwork.

The simplicity of the subject matter allows the viewer to instantly understand the emotion, particularly within the context in which it was made. Upon first viewing the artwork, it brought me to the verge of tears; thoughts of abandoned family members during COVID-19 come to mind.

The subject matter is that of artist Tayla Wetherall's grandmother. When Tayla was 11 years old, she left South Africa and moved to Perth. Tayla's grandmother still resides in South Africa, a quarter of the way across the globe. Tayla speaks of this artwork as a way of representing the family connections which cannot be maintained as easily now that international travel isn't an option for most.

Tayla mentions that her Grandmother turned 80 this year and that their family would have loved to celebrate with her; while her Grandmother would have loved to visit Pulse Perspectives to view Tayla's artwork in person.

Gran turned 80 this year, she couldn't come to see the work; we couldn't come over to celebrate with her. The time spent on the work weighed on me a lot.

Tayla Wetherall
Pulse Perspectives Artist

According to Tayla, time was an inescapable theme of the piece. Tayla spent six to seven months creating her work, with a lot changing in the world throughout the making process.

The message that Tayla wants every viewer to take away from her artwork is incredibly important: "Don't forget about your family who live a bit further away that you don't see as often. Don't forget to have those connections."

Tayla Wetherall and her Grandmother

Tayla Wetherall and her Grandmother.

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I know we all want to see our friends and go out but don't forget about the family events, the family dinners and that kind of family bond.

Tayla Wetherall
Pulse Perspectives Artist
Tayla Wetherall Don't you forget about me 2020.
Tayla Wetherall Don't you forget about me 2020.
Oil on canvas, 91 x 61 cm. Iona Presentation College.

In Detail

1. The face: The gaze draws in the viewer's attention, emphasising the centre of the image with the face as the focal point. The light beige tones of the face contrast the dark muted brown tones of the shadows behind the figure, further emphasising the face. The distant gaze portrays a sense of separation and longing for the bright outside world. The face is also one of the most detailed sections of the image.

2. Cigarette: The cigarette is a symbol of comfort through its ritualistic nature. My gran would always smoke her daily cigarette near the window or sitting on her patio step. It was her time to relax, watch the outside world and unwind.

3. Barred windows: The almost jail-like windows are used as a physical separation from the foreground and the figure. This separation is further emphasised through the contrast of the organic figure and bedding in the midground and background, as well as the geometric horizontal and vertical lines of the windows.

4. Dark interior, light exterior: The muted brown tones convey a sad and dreary interior that contacts the light exterior, shining through the windows and casting light onto the bed in the midground. Contrast in colour portrays a clear divide of the environments. This mixed with the longing gaze conveys a desire for a "brighter" environment and time.

5. Gown: The vivid royal blue colour of the gown contrasts against other muted tones in the image, emphasising the centre of the image. The mix of beige tones and vivid blue colours creates a calm atmosphere.

6. Stance near window: The figure is positioned close to the widow to emphasise a sense of longing for the outside.

“Due to the pandemic the sense of separation and longing is more relevant than ever, so I channeled my own experience with this into my work, particularly with family. My gran has always been there for the important milestone moments throughout my life and when I moved to Perth that separation was hard. When the pandemic hit she felt even further away, so my piece is an ode to her; to recognise that even though we are so far away, we’ll never forget to celebrate the special moments and milestones.”

Tayla Wetherall diary sketches for her work Don't you forget about me 2020.
Tayla Wetherall diary sketches for her work Don't you forget about me 2020.

The Making Process

Tayla mentions that there was a lot of planning required in preparing the making process. Don't you forget about me is the second piece in a set of two. Tayla wasn't satisfied with the outcome of the first piece but felt that the final piece, the product of around six months of hard work, turned out exactly the way she had intended it to be.

In the creation of the piece, Tayla sought inspiration from artists like Edward Hopper and found the help her teachers provided to be indispensable for her in creating her work and the concepts behind it.

The concept is just as important as the finished product. You need to come up with that concept in a week.

Tayla Wetherall
Pulse Perspectives Artist

ATAR Visual Arts can be hectic. Tayla advises future students to take the time to seek help from teachers to better themselves and to tackle the visual and written components of Visual Arts ATAR in small, manageable chunks: "A paragraph of analysis here and there, a little bit of work on your piece."

For Tayla, Don't you forget about me holds sentimental value and inspiration. "[The piece was] the first thing that showed me that you will get there if you spend enough time and work hard enough ". Tayla not only topped art in her high school and made it into Pulse Perspectives, but she also received Iona Presentation College's Principal's Award.

Tayla spoke of the tremendous support she and her peers have received from her school in facilitating the student's artistic visions. Pictured below is a display within Iona's art department featuring Tayla's artworks from years 7 to 12.

Tayla describes the process of producing her painting as long, tedious, and yet so rewarding. She never expected her work to get into Pulse Perspectives as the prospect had seemed like an unattainable dream.

Tayla Wetherall's art from Year 7 - 12 at Iona Presentation College

Tayla Wetherall's art from Year 7 - 12 at Iona Presentation College.

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[There are] so many amazing works in Pulse Perspectives that just goes to show the calibre of skill, effort, time and teachers’ support: it's just an amazing exhibition. Every year it's amazing.

Tayla Wetherall
Pulse Perspectives Artist

Don't you forget about me is truly a piece that should be appreciated in person. The sheer scale of the work and its realism strikes the viewer in a beautiful way.

Pulse Perspectives is on display at the Gallery until 27 September 2021.

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