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  • Writer's pictureJillAnsell

Making Mikaela

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

My portrait of Mikaela Castledine has been accepted into the Portia Geach Memorial Award. I’m pleased and honoured to be included.

I really enjoyed creating this portrait –

Mikaela Castledine is a well-known, award-winning West Australian artist best known for her sculptures. I was delighted when she agreed to be my subject, as I have long admired her work and wanted to capture that clever gaze.

She has an interesting family history that influences her work. Using repurposed items, thread, sticks and glue she creates objects and conjures stories that have their origins in her WA wheatbelt childhood and her mother’s Burmese heritage.

She was therefore perfect for an assemblage portrait.

I selected found objects to reflect her history and practice. Her face is painted in oil on board and placed looking out from the top of an old Singer sewing machine drawer.

In the drawer is a composition of items that reflect aspects of her practice, life and family. The whole creates an assemblage portrait that captures her, her history and the things she creates. Blue and red cotton thread through the work, culminating in the crocheted stupa on the top. The stupa and central glass bottle reference the sculpture that won Mikaela the prestigious Mandorla prize.

There were so many items I wanted to include in this assemblage, but I couldn’t get them all to complement each other and I had chosen the drawer before all the objects, so space was limited. Mikaela had offered objects from her own collection too, so I was overwhelmed with choice. I ended up paring the assemblage back a little. Looking for something to fix to the base of the work, I remembered Mikaela's use of small wooden cotton reels in a sculpture. (Mikaela and I tend to like the same objects). Mine was too large, so I asked Mum if she had one. She immediately produced a beautiful little wooden cotton reel, and pronounced that it had been her mother's. We don’t like to throw things out in this family if we think they might be useful. The cotton reel is perfect and I am pleased with the work.

It will be exhibited at the S.H Ervin gallery, Millers Point, Sydney from 3 November to 17 December. I’ve had a glimpse of some of the other works that are also finalists and they are marvellous so it will definitely be an exhibition worth seeing. As a bonus, there is a great cafe at the gallery and a beautiful view of the harbour from the hill.

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