Sofie Dieu is a first generation Australian woman; she arrived in Australia just after Black Saturday in February, 2009 and it shook her profoundly. Since then, she has worked as an artist with communities deeply impacted by bushfires and drought. In December 2019, she was artist in residence in Falls Creek as part of the Falls Creek Arts and Culture program. The smoke and smell were overwhelming, she says. Her residency ended two days before the village was evacuated. On her return to Melbourne, she felt compelled to take action. This gave rise to her innovative online workshops, ‘Stillness Through Art’. Her own practice and that practice she teaches is self-exploratory and embedded in the numinous – or spirituality.
Everything I research and create is strongly anchored in the numinous and allows me to explore various ways of centering myself and being in touch with this inner peace. It is the driving force that pushes me to contemplate, create and share.
Since 2017, I have worked with Gippsland residents who are strongly impacted by eco-anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. Their suffering is deep and despite the fantastic work of dedicated organisations and individuals, mental health support is rare and far in between. More help is needed.
This online project intends to give creatives, who are engaged in their Community, practical tools to support their mental health and in turn help others in need by sharing what they have learnt through practice.
This specific project investigates various ways to increase resilience and to facilitate recovery from post-bushfire and drought related trauma. Experts in the field of naturopathy, art therapy, psychiatry, well-being, yoga, counselling, science and art have joined me to shape a series of workshops that are art and wellbeing focused as well as hands on.
This specific work is born from the consequences of climate change, ecocide and solastalgia, (emotional stress caused by environmental change). It stands against our society’s apathy and our politicians disinterest and inaction. There is much healing needed and I solely focus on this. Positive change can only bloom at a grass root level and I believe Community is where it comes from.
The difference with Stillness Through Art is that I wanted the impact of my work to be more widespread. This is why I asked Dr. Rob Gordon, Dr. Barbara Doran, Rachel Hiskins, Eleonore Pironneau, Juliana Mora Luna, Jenn Clark and Candace Borg to help me shape and deliver these workshops. It is also why I targeted creatives who are committed to their Community, my aim was that after the workshops have been delivered, the benefits would keep on rippling.
My art feeds and takes roots on my spirituality which in turn support my personal growth and wellbeing. It is introspective and intends to give a physicality to what I experience deep within. My hope is that people will be touched by it and will want to experience “it” for themselves.
I am drawn to artists who work similarly or who have a strong connection to the numinous. They deal in one way or another with rituals, mythology, womanhood but also the bush, ecology, and of course spirituality.
I would like to thank the East Gippsland Shire Council for its on-going support and its generous contribution to this project. The Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal has also played an essential role by financially supporting the creation and delivery of these workshops.
The content of the workshops that includes hands on activities, information on eco-anxiety, reading lists and prompts on how to share all of this with your family and Community, is available on https://www.learn-paint-grow.com/stillness-through-art
A publication of ‘Stillness Through Art’ is planned for next year and will be distributed in East Gippsland. It is a pilot project, which if successful, will be expanded so copies reach those in need nationwide.
More of Sofie’s work can be found at www.sofie-dieu.com