Paul McDonald is a socially engaged artist and educator whose practice explores masculinity and mental health. He was recently commissioned by ‘The Dax Centre’ Melbourne and BridgingHope Charity to produce and exhibit his first major solo exhibition ‘resonance’ in response to the Cunningham Dax Collection. The Cunningham Dax Collection consists of more than 16,000 artworks created by people who have experienced mental illness or psychological trauma. The Collection includes works on paper, canvases, photographs, textiles, sculptures, installations, artists’ books and diaries, digital media and films. Paul is the first artist to be asked to respond to the collection in a contemporary way.
My chosen medium is the camera and analogue film. I explore and process my own lived experiences of mental health through my research, collaboration and practice.
In creation of the works, I often go to a ‘space’, both physically and mentally, in which I have experienced loss, anxiety or had to face my own personal challenges of mental health. Drawing upon these feelings, work is created. I do not go into a dark or uncomfortable head space to create the work. It is often quite the opposite, I feel comfortable and relaxed exploring these feelings. In some ways, I felt in control and there was a sense of closure.
I am drawn to nature to present a visual dialogue around masculinity and mental health. The landscape functions as a metaphor for state of mind. Often the emptiness within the space is a metaphor for loss, stillness and mindfulness. The ocean, as a kind of baptism, both takes and gives life.
My work often includes portraits of men within the landscape. Their portraits are created in collaboration with the participants. Providing an opportunity to engage in a dialogue through co-creation of artwork and to participate in the delivery of creative photography programs provides a valuable outlet.
Collaboration, community engagement and the display of works are all part of the creative process. The conversations and encounters with my participants and audiences help me understand my own thoughts and are essential to the development of my practice.
I personally see my practice as an extension of my breathing. It is part of me, my life and my existence. If I did not create, research and develop my practice, I would simply stop breathing.
More of Paul’s work can be found at
Images supplied by the artist. Curation by Dr Linden Wilkinson.