Flight from Silence – fortyfivedownstairs 2015

Acrylic paint and ink drawing 2015

Minsk – for Lisa’s Mother              (Available)



Acrylic paint and ink drawing 2015














ARTICLES on Flight from Silence fortyfivedownstairs May 2015.



1.Sarah Tomasetti on Flight from Silence 

Thoughts on Flight from Silence

 Anna Taylor  and Lisa Sewards

I begin with the title Flight from Silence, rich with associations emblematic of the themes that flow between these two bodies of work.

Sewards has suspended several small drop parachutes from the ceiling, juxtaposed on the left with atmospheric prints of the forest and on the right with an enormous diptych of paintings that depict both parachutes and birds falling through the night. We pause in the silence of a parachute drifting down between trees, generally a symbol of hope, bringing supplies of food, mail and medicine or occasionally a cylinder containing a carrier pigeon that would then be fitted with a new message and set to fly home to its loft.

The silence of the pigeons delivering their crucial messages; their inability to communicate their experience of the treacherous skies of wartime (or our inability to hear it) resonates with the layers of silence born by peoples on all sides of conflict. Absolute silence of course, rests with the dead, but Taylor and Sewards concern themselves with restorative commemoration in the more fluid space of the living.

Sewards has gathered together an evocative collection of objects and memorabilia that recalls the life saving flights of the 32 pigeons awarded the Dickin Medal for gallantry after the Second World War. She travelled to Canberra and ‘met’ two of those birds whose bodies have been preserved by taxidermists, and she re-animates them through drawings and paintings made in situ, and later developed into larger etchings. Small works are combined with relief prints of the parachute strings and hung in the circular form of a medal. This project brings together her longstanding interest in birds, with her continuing work on war time experience that began with the exhibition White Parachute, a meditation on a moment in her mother’s life as a child refugee living in a displaced persons camp, when the silk from a fallen parachute in the forest was used to make clothes, including white ribbons for the little girl’s hair.

Working long term in the difficult territory of wartime memory, both artists have started with their family history and moved out from that point, engaging the great power of peace time story telling to bring new understandings of the trauma of the past. The practice of making follows the moment of telling, honouring and settling memory into shared history for both narrator and listener. Comprehension, healing and forgiveness may follow. The images and objects made and assembled by the artists both memorialise this process and invite the viewer to enter their own stories.

In undertaking the Memorial Home Sweet Home (a title with a faintly ironic ring) Anna Taylor wades bravely into weighty territory; the stories and experiences of the families who lived with loved ones who, in the aftermath of conflicts, were no longer the people they knew. The stigma laden, less heroic injuries wrought by what is now termed PTSD, reverberate through the generations, mushrooming into disorders such as alcoholism, phobias and depression.

Taylor draws on her background working in the community sector to take up residencies at two Vasey RSL homes, inviting people to reflect on their experiences of family life. Frequently exhibiting the Memorial at the Austin Repat Hospital commemorative events and at legacy groups has continually drawn more participants. People are welcomed not only to tell their stories but to be actively involved in the process of stitching and making the books that honour what they have to say. Where the opportunity presents itself such as with Tapscott family, Taylor has documented five generations of wartime service into a single book. Iraq veteran Sarah Tapscott Archibald, the youngest Tapscott to serve, spoke of her post war experience alongside Taylor at the artist talk, and so the connections grow.

This is artist as conduit and the art as gift; as the object is made so a corrosive silence is undone. Stories are told and heard. The slowness of the making creates a space in time around the memory and with this, a new awareness of the continuing effect of the wartime experience.

Alongside the memorial Taylor made aerial paintings of sites of war mentioned by participants. Particularly poignant is a diptych depicting Hiroshima before and after the bomb, a fertile inhabited landscape laid waste in the space of a day. We come up to the conflicts of the present through an image of Tarin Kowt in Afghanistan. Beneath it a view of coastal Australia signals Taylor’s next phase of research for the Memorial; into the Frontier Wars fought between white settlers and indigenous peoples in this country.

Whilst rich with emotional punch, Flight from Silence is not a sentimental journey. Sewards is an accomplished printmaker and Taylor has honed her visual language of painting land and water from the air over many years. Both artists engage the tropes of installation to create a tactile world for the viewer to enter. Beneath the play of shadows created by the suspended parachutes Sewards enshrines a collection of letters and parachute fragments in a glass dome. All the individual books, boxes and scrolls of Taylor’s Memorial come together as a monument in an iconic red tower arranged above the viewer. On the wall, projected larger than life size, a silent film plays representing those affected by the legacy of war. Initially each person appears in a white space and then the camera pans slowly back creating a very simple and powerful encounter between viewer and narrator. We see people of all generations appear and move quietly back in the frame. We see ourselves and close others in all of our human-ness. The hesitations and catches of breath in the process of remembering become universal. This is everybody’s story, then and now.

“In the reciprocity that is story telling, both teller and listener inhabit the space of the story. Telling stories connects us and allows us to care, to be: it fosters collaboration; it aggregates knowledge and generates new ideas; it ignites change, and, ultimately, builds community.”

Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster, p49, Catalogue 18th Biennale of Sydney.

Sarah Tomasetti
May 2015


2. Published in Art Almanac – 29 April 2015

Anna Taylor and Lisa Sewards : Flight from Silence

This exhibition showcases stories retrieved from past wars. Artists Anna Taylor and Lisa Sewards have collaborated to create unique perspectives around war and deliver bodies of work that honour lost memories and untold experiences.

Taylor’s ‘Home Sweet Home – a Memorial’ pays tribute to the families of veterans and reveals the untold stories of women and children affected by inter-generational war trauma.Sewards poetically brings to life unlikely and unsung war heroes: the carrier pigeons who received gallantry medals for countless lives during WW2. Their unique stories are portrayed in paintings and works on paper.

12 to 30 May, 2015

Anna Taylor, Siberian Railway, 2015, acrylic paint and ink drawing, 76 x 76cm
Courtesy the artist and fortyfivedownstairs, Melbourne
Photography: Michelle Ferriera


‘honouring lost memories and untold experiences’

Artists Anna Taylor and Lisa Sewards deliver bodies of work that both complement and define the other.

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My dear friend and neighbour Anna Taylor, fine artist (and gorgeous, caring soul) currently has a joint exhibition at FORTYFIVEDOWNSTAIRS at 45 Flinders Lane entitled ‘Flight from Silence’ with fellow artist Lisa Sewards. Knowing how much I love my music Anna kindly gifted me a copy of two songs written by family members to listen to – composed especially for this joint exhibition.

I was immediately struck by how great these two compositions were and asked her if she would be comfortable with me reviewing them. Both music pieces are used to bookend a short film within the exhibit, where family, friends and associates are interviewed on the effect war has had on them personally and in their family life.

As part of this exhibition, Anna is currently showing her ongoing collaborative project ‘Home Sweet Home: a Memorial to generations of women & children effected by war’ where up until 2018, she is collecting people’s personal stories and documenting them within handbound books, boxes, videos, aerial paintings and art installations – some collaboratively with the original storytellers to create uniquely personal works of art.

I found the concept to be at once both extremely creative and also more importantly, a mission of the heart – As part of the exhibition session that I attended yesterday, Anna had invited a young mother, Iraq war veteran Sarah Tapscott Archibald, to speak… she was only one of many members of her family who had worked in various parts of the community service sector and, although the drive to serve for her country obviously ran very strongly through her family history, she had some very enlightening and salient points to make about how war has affected both her and her family, both her young children and siblings. But above all, she was so grateful to Anna for the gift she had given to her family through her art.

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The first of these music pieces is entitled ‘In the Sky We Shall Meet, 1944’
– words by T.C Taylor in 1944, music written and performed by Cate Taylor

Taylor’s plaintive, heartfelt vocal delivery on “In the Sky We Shall Meet” I found instantly reminiscent of the late great Kirsty MacColl both in phrasing and intonation, which immediately is a fantastic plus. The song itself is apparently inspired by a poem penned by her father who was a pilot in the Second World War, and Cate wisely chooses to treat the song in a simple acoustic and quite underplayed approach, so that her father’s sentiments are given every opportunity to have maximum impact. I found that even on first hearing it was tremendously affecting and I simply had to give it another spin. I’ve actually fallen in love with this and found I have have actually played it many times over the weekend.




‘In the sky we shall meet, 1944’ – Tom Taylor
music written and performed by Cate Taylor

There is a man alive tonight…
will my shell kill… or who will kill me?
Perhaps he sleeps in Germany –
or lies awake in the snows of Russia
Weary, ‘fraid and alone…
Perhaps he’s drinking beer in a tavern,
or dancing to the strains of some music,
dancing with a fair-haired girl
who laughs and teases him,
secretly thinks him very brave..
A girl who’ll cry when he is gone to battle
and will pray for him each night
that he may return safely,

These things I do not know
and I cannot guess
These things I do not know
and I cannot guess

What is the life of this my enemy?
Who are those he loves
– his friends and his people?
What are his ambitions?
..and his desires?
Is he young, straight from school,
dreaming of romance, travel and honour..?
Is he an athlete or a student,
does he enjoy reading
and poetry and music?
has he a wife? and has he children,
or a sweetheart or a mother or sisters?

These things I do not know,
and I cannot guess
These things I do not know,
and I cannot guess

I only know they’re faraway…
they’re strangers alive today…
I only know that in the sky we two shall meet…
and one shall die…
and one shall die.

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The second song composed especially for the joint exhibition is an equally affecting piece called “Tiger Moth” written and composed by Anna’s other sister, Jenny Taylor … dealing with how repatriation and War-triggered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects the family and how the experience of war never really leaves. The imagery portrayed through the lyrics is tremendously saturated and evocative – much like the previous song, and it paints a vivid picture that lingers long in the imagination and poses the sad, and quite haunting question: When someone returns from war as damaged goods – does anyone recognise within the wreckage, the person who left? This song, together with it’s exhibition stablemate is perfectly conceived and executed and is a currently a favourite enjoying high rotation on my Soundcloud. A potent and rewarding listen, worth your time and consideration.
With Jenny Taylor




‘Tiger Moth’

Written and performed by Jenny Taylor

Tobacco breath, yellow fingers, yellow hair
calling out through the back door
Rose china plates,
flowing gravy
crystal jugs and lace
chipped by spoons,
calling to order, calling in children
who run to Grandad there in the kitchen
to find you there
watching parachutes, torn silk,
stalling tiger moths,
bounce around the tea-set
and the planes circle above,
drop their parachutes,
falling somewhere hopeful
You’re a white knuckle pilot
and your gunners in the back

Asian women, rose vines and silk,
their babies swaddled
lips crying out for milk,
this kitchen table
pouring down like muck
If the heavens opened,
would anyone?
anyone call your name?
As the boy who left
would anyone recognise the same?

Guts like a rotor
you’re working too hard…
and your plane landed years ago
but there’s still
noise in your ears
and your arms are wrestling
out in the air
Your eyebrows down
over distant eyes
Wipes the smiles
from the faces of the children
now treading carefully
through the kitchen,
daisies in the wind
living in autumn
this kitchen table
this cup of tea,
this slice of cake,
this family

If the heavens opened
would anyone
anyone call your name?
as the boy who left
did anyone?
did they recognise the same?

And of any choice
which one was yours?
In all of these days
and all these wars?

Mention should also be made of Lisa Sewards’ exhibits also… For her contribution to ‘Flight from Silence’ she chose to focus her attention on the wonderful and unspoken contribution that CARRIER PIGEONS made during the war. Pigeons were dropped behind enemy lines by parachute, collected by troops and then had messages attached to their legs and were released to fly home. These birds would then fly up to 20 miles in as many minutes, often through anti-aircraft flak and hostile enemy fire to deliver these important messages. Of course, as you would expect many were killed in the line of duty – by bullet fire or trained hawks – but there are some great untold stories of those that made it home despite injuries – just in time to deliver crucial army intelligence and save many troops in the process. Her paintings of the birds are gorgeous and already many have been sold. She has also chosen to accentuate the paintings with some pertinent historical artifacts, including documents regarding the awarding of bravery medals to some of these birds. Two very visually arresting and quite thought-provoking exhibits – that as the flyer reads, perfectly complement each other. Recommended!

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I’ve just discovered that BOTH Cate Taylor and Jenny Taylor will be performing live  at fortyfivedownstairs NEXT WEEKEND at the closing drinks function with the Artists: SATURDAY 30 MAY, 2pm – 4pm @ 45 Flinders Lane. Melbourne. I thoroughly recommend you take a few moments to check out BOTH tracks in the soundcloud links above and then, if you like what you hear – get along to witness this played live at the exhibition itself!

Harry Williams  – May 2015

Harry Williams's photo.
Harry Williams's photo.
Harry Williams's photo.
Harry Williams's photo.
Harry Williams's photo.
Anna Taylor speaking in front of her paintings ‘Minsk’ and ‘Siberian Railway’
the sites referred to by those who have participated in her Memorial project.

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