Which way is North?

Aletheia Casey

2015 - Ongoing

“A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.”

‘Trees are sanctuaries’ Herman Hesse

This work, which began after I had my son four years ago, explores the loss of self which I experienced after childbirth and attempts to make sense of my new role in life and find my place again in a world which felt unfamiliar and fearful. The series uses my mother and wider family to explore the complexity of motherhood and changing family relationships, personal identity, and the inevitability of loss.

The experience of motherhood changed me. It changed my perception of the world, my understanding of myself, and also of my mother, who had lost her own mother when she was a young baby. I felt continually closer to the concept of death, and my fear of loss was always present. There was a newfound darkness in what had otherwise been a life of lightness. As the years passed this lightness gradually returned, but with a new kind of understanding of the depths that exist within the shadows of life.

During this time the ocean and the wildness of the Australian landscape felt like it was reaching deep inside me, and held the fragmented pieces of me together. The physical landscape provided a sense of belonging to something tangible, something historic and lasting, that in turn held its own history and its own dark secrets. This wild place held me, and spoke about the continuation of life, despite the eventuality of death. My mother and the landscape merged, and both came to symbolise stability and belonging.

This work is an exploration of life, the human connectedness of loss and an inquiry into how the past resonates throughout the present within our bloodlines. While the work began as a way to communicate my fear of loss, sparked by new motherhood, it evolved into a visual love letter to my mother, an homage to her presence and her influence. The images explore the complexity and duality of motherhood, home and family, played out amongst the light and shadows which coexist within life.

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