Self-portrait a journey of healing

Published 2:00pm 3 June 2021

Self-portrait a journey of healing
Words by Jodie Powell

Margate artist Monica Rose Batiste had not intended to display the deeply personal self-portrait she spent months painting, let alone enter it into Australia’s oldest portrait award - the Archibald prize.

But enter it she did, taking the portrait on a cathartic journey from Brisbane with stops at Coffs Harbour, Newcastle and the Blue Mountains to see family and friends.

On the day of delivery, Batiste walked it across the Domain before finding her way to the rear of the National Gallery of NSW and the packing room where entries are received.

“As we drove into the city, I was so nervous,” Batiste recalls.

“I have entered a few times through a courier – this is the first time I have taken my painting myself.

“It was nice to be in the packing room – everybody’s painting gets turned to the wall.”

Batiste began the portrait as part of her journey of healing from depression.

“I painted it last year based on my experiences– I was never really going to display it – it was just for me.

“It took months, I would put it aside and then work on it again. I cried a lot.”

Courageous entry

Self-portrait a journey of healing

Then Batiste wrote a piece about what depression feels like, which ultimately became the statement that accompanied her Archibald entry.

“The more we share, the more connected we become and right now it feels like connection is important,” she says.

“I want to be brave and share my truth so other women feel okay to.

“The more we are true to who we are, to ourselves, the more community we become.”

A sense of community is important to Batiste, who teaches yoga by the beach at Margate.

The pace is a far cry from her previous life as a fitness instructor at a gym and has helped her deal with her depression.

“I ended up teaching yoga because of depression – I was a fitness instructor but developed chronic fatigue,” Batiste says.

“I wanted to keep working so I became a yoga teacher - yoga turned out to be a very good healer and helped create the community that I would not have had otherwise - I never made friends at the gym.”

Now in its 100th year, the Archibald is Australia’s oldest portrait award, with winners announced on June 4.

Read more local news here.

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