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Time is precious

by David Sequeira, 1 September 2004

Headspace5: Crystal Gazing highlighted the diversity of materials and techniques that young people use for self expression. David Sequeira presents a personal view of three works in the exhibition.

Corina Ngoh is one of the most gifted psychics with whom l have had the privilege of working. In a recent session at her studio in Melaka, Malaysia, she gazed into a giant crystal ball and explained how aspects of my previous lives had worked their way into my current life. As if she had known me all of my life. Corina articulated my hopes, dreams and fears with alarming clanty. Corina mapped out a plan that would bring me personal fulfilment and a deep connection to the world around me. Totally absorbed in the crystal ball, she repeated the same sentence several times during our session., time is precious... time is precious... time is precious...

Viewing the works in the National Portrait Gallery's exhibition Headspace 5: Crystal Gazing. I am reminded of how precious time can be. Unlike previous Headspace exhibitions, Headspace 5 asked secondary students from around Australia to consider their future in the light of their current experiences, feelings and interests. The result is an exhibition of over 200 self-portraits rich in personal history, expression and inquiry in which students embrace those perennial questions... Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? The works illustrated here are only three of the ways students have tackled this investigative process.

Ray Lichtenberg's linocut Hypnotised has a raw energy and vigour. Looking at the print one cannot help but think of Ray carving away furiously at the piece of lino. His crude line work and bold colouring create a happy exuberance. Moving into a projection of his future, Ray proclaims, 'This is how I will look later on... a happy daze' In this work, Ray describes a future for himself that seems less about a list of achievements and more about a way of being: joyous.

The charcoal, pastel and ink drawing Cambodian Destination by Lisa Hamilton is a sophisticated synthesis of past, present and future linked through rich personal symbolism. Her palette is restricted to black, white and pink. Working within these limits, Lisa explores all of the subtleties of her chosen medium. Gazing out of the image, Lisa clutches a sculpture from Cambodia. The artist explains that this gesture speaks of a longing to visit her cousins and sponsor person in Cambodia. In this image, she literally holds her dream in her hands, foretelling a journey for which she is destined. The spine has often been used as a symbol of support, the structure that holds us up. In this self portrait it refers to Lisa's scoliosis and the pink blossom that flowers from it is like a sprig of joy. For Lisa, the flower image conjures a familiar fragrance, recalling her childhood and referring to a tree around which she used to play.

Untitled self-portrait by Jacqui McKenzie is a diptych of Type C photographs. Jacqui wanted to 'capture the essence of personality in each individual photo, but also follow a narrative line of growth in personality.' In the part of the self portrait illustrated here Jacqui presents herself as down to earth. The lush green grass in which she rests suggests freshness, springtime and youth. Her expression is telling of happiness and light heartedness. Her fingers playfully curl a wisp of hair and her beaming smile lights up the photograph. This image of vitality and love is an exciting glimpse of the future. Jacqui reveals herself as continuing her journey being truly present to the joy of life.

Although the artists 'look forward' in tieir self portraits, their vision of themselves and their future is being generated by their experience in the present. Time is precious.