A powerful drawing, titled For the Drowned, has earned JCU Arts Honours Alumni Fiona Currey-Billyard a place in the revived Dobell Drawing Prize finals. Conveying a message without words is a key reason Fiona loves art and her submission undoubtedly has a lot to say.
“For the Drowned is a single line for each person who has drowned seeking asylum in Australia,” Fiona says. “It is 1917 lines, really thin lines, across a big piece of paper. I chose to do it because I was angry about the idea of seeking asylum becoming such a horrible thing in this country and I wanted it to be a landscape, hence the size. It’s 2.75 metres long and 2.2 metres deep.”
The image is striking, but the depth behind the lines is where the true power of such a simple concept comes from.
“I wanted it to be beautiful and horrifying at the same time, which it is,” Fiona says. “It looks like a sea-scape because of those very thin lines.
“When you go through the data of the people who have drowned, they put them in categories based on when the sex is known. I used different grades of pencils for each group and it’s in chronological order, so it’s graded as well in this sort of weird way.”
Despite her passion being in public art, Fiona specifically drew For the Drowned for the Dobell Prize, a contest she wanted to enter before it went on hiatus after 2012.
“I’d been talking about doing a body of work on drownings of asylum seekers, and the Dobell came up,” she says.