Today is WORLD CHILDREN’S DAY and there’s been a takeover!
UNICEF Australia’s Goodwill Ambassador, Ken Done, is helping with the celebrations for the anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child by allowing a takeover of his studio.
This year the focus is on Article 12 – Respect for the views of the child, which stipulates; When adults are making decisions that affect children, children have the right to say what they think should happen and have their opinions taken into account.
For the first time Done has allowed a group of children, seven-year olds, to take over his studio and I had the opportunity to speak to him and two of his charges before their artwork goes on sale at a gala dinner this evening. This activity is one of a range of high-profile kids ‘takeovers’ that UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Organisation, has been facilitating across the globe in the lead up to World Children’s Day. The aim is to raise the profile and voices of children in places and spaces where they may not usually be seen or heard.
Sini Wallace and Georgia Cummings from Plunkett Street Public School have each created one of the 40 cm x 40 cm panels which will be displayed together as one large scale artwork.
“We wanted it to work as collection” says Done. “We were looking for consistency and cohesion, so I drew a circle, a face as a starting point.” He knew that the kids would make it their own from there. Children paint with optimism, he explains. Nice things: sun, flowers, water. “We wanted to celebrate the lucky (sic) of being here. “
The famous artist has seen the other side.
Done has had a nearly 30-year relationship with UNICEF since he was asked to decorate the UNICEF Pavilion facade for Expo 88 in Brisbane. “They asked me to be the first UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and I just said yes.”
As part of this role he has visited and worked in difficult places. “In the camps there are children who draw images of war and other things, not because they have read a comic with it in but because they have lived it.” While not known for his darker work, (“95 % of my work is beauty, colour, optimism”) Done expresses his passionate belief that “getting it out”, even when there a few resources and he and the children draw with a pointed stick in the dirt, is beneficial. He references his 2012 exhibition which had images of dreams, drowning and death after a difficult period in his life.
But colours abound today as we chat in his vibrant gallery at The Rocks. And it’s not just his iconic style that brings the light, Sini and Georgia are thoroughly enjoying themselves!
When I spoke with them I began by asking about colour. Georgia is a pastel girl. “I just added lots of white” she explains. Sini is more figurative and describes her painting as “a yellow opera house, a red flower, a purple butterfly.” She goes on to explain that “Ken helped me mix the colours on a piece of paper.”
Done tells me that giving the kids strong primary colours to start with was a further way of having the individual panels work as a collection. He knows that their imagination will take them off on their own visual and imaginative journey. As it has for him since he was their age growing up as an only child in a country town. “If Mum asked me about a birthday party I was at, I would draw it rather than explain.”
When Done spoke about the takeover its clear that, for him, visual communication, a painting , is “half a question”. So I was inspired to ask the girls the other half. What, I asked them, do you want your paintings to say to the children of the world?
Georgia responds immediately,
“It’s a person on an adventure, not giving up.”
Sini takes a little longer to get her message exactly right …
“Don’t be afraid.”
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.au/
For information about Ken Done, UNICEF Australia’s Goodwill Ambassador , visit http://www.kendone.com.au/news.php?s=unicef