Transition, transformation and back again

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Beth Wilson AM, on loss, art and her beloved Cape Bridgewater

During her tenure as Victoria’s Heath Services Commissioner, Beth Wilson AM experienced a vast range of personal experiences that would have left a less-determined human being floundering. In an interview with The Age upon her retirement from the role in May 2012, Beth referred to the ‘ugly side of medicine’, which included ‘women scarred for life from botched cosmetic surgery, doctors sexually abusing their patients, and terminally ill cancer sufferers ripped off by shonky healers’.

Among the many rewards, triumphs and sadness, Beth remembers a particular experience that most profoundly influenced her paintings. ‘The bravery of a woman who had lost her son and her husband to suicide, but still had the grace to describe me as having emotional intelligence,’ Beth recalls. ‘She suffered great loss but endured and transformed her life, and this amazing woman was a big influence on my motivation to create … to paint.’

The process of transition and the inspirational way everything is always changing yet stays the same inspires Beth to create – transitions and transformations she finds mainly in the wild skies, waves and landscapes of her beloved Cape Bridgewater.

‘The first time I was captivated by Cape Bridgewater was in 1991,’ Beth says. ‘I was staying in Tim Malseed’s fabulous bay house, which stands high on a cliff among the heath. Tim built the house himself from big bluestone blocks and it sits like a lookout in the heart of the crescent that comprises Cape Bridgewater and Cape Nelson. Imagine a wild and wonderful bay embraced in a giant scallop shell that often has more than seven breakers at a time with nothing else between you and Antarctica and you can picture Bridgewater Bay.”

As well as a huge number of public speaking engagements, Beth is working with Wild@Heart developing a play about the new Mental Health Act from a consumer perspective for consumers of mental health services. She is also a Patron of the Continence Foundation of Australia and the Satellite Foundation, which assists children whose parents have mental illness.

Right now, though, Beth is preparing for her exhibition ‘Transition’ at The Sandpit, which opens on Wednesday 18 June. ‘Exhibiting Beth’s work is an great honour for us,’ said The Sandpit’s Artistic Director Geoffrey Williams. ‘I loved Beth’s work from the moment I saw it – the drama, the layers, the scale and intensity are fantastic. These are paintings that you can almost hear, as well as see.’

And for Beth? ‘Well, first of all I am nervously hoping visitors to the exhibition will like my images. I would like to think people will be uplifted by what they see and that they might think about their world a little differently,’ she says. ‘Land, sky and seascapes inspire me because they are always transitioning – however the damage we are causing to the environment is frightening. If we don’t start taking climate change very seriously very soon, we are all in danger.’



An exhibition by Beth Wilson AM

Wednesday to Sunday, 18 – 29 June. Open from 10am–6pm.

The Sandpit, Ground Floor, 148A Barkly Street, St Kilda

Free entry.


Meet the Artist

Join Beth Wilson AM and The Sandpit’s Artistic Director, Geoffrey Williams, for an afternoon of conversation about Beth’s art. Refreshments will be served. Sunday June 22 from 3pm until 6pm. Free entry.

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