Xersa is an internationally-exhibited contemporary artist and textile designer. She joins '60 Years, 60 Voices' to explain the important role art has played in her recovery from illness and its continuing support…

My name is Xersa, I am Australian. My name was developed as a business name in the late 1970s through to the early 1990s. I set up a design studio for the textile industry called ‘Xersa Designs’. Many clients and new friends thought that was my name, so I changed it: I am now legally Xersa.

Besides designing, I continue my own art practice in parallel and have had many exhibitions in major galleries in Australia, held workshops in Italy, and I have expanded my practice to exhibit at the Menier Gallery, London; Affirmation Arts, Exit Arts, and Cipriani Wall Street, New York; and touring Piedmont, Italy.

My interest in health began in the early 1970s, which were not smooth going, having experienced an ectopic event. The pain developed quickly and I collapsed, unable to call for help, and lost consciousness. When I recovered from the trauma of regaining consciousness, I came to realize that life is so very precious. I had difficulty for some weeks due to complications. My art helped in that by concentrating and focussing, by swapping the pencil or brush to the other hand, my recovery was hastened. I then continued with my love of drawing and promised that this was to become my main source of joy and dedication. Designing for textiles did involve drawing, painting and colour skills, and certainly augmented my art practice.

Xersa, Self Portrait (Winter Series), 2018. Fixed Conté on prepared linen.

Xersa, Self Portrait (Winter Series), 2018. Fixed Conté on prepared linen.

Life’s tenuous gossamer touched me only too closely when, during the 1980s, my dear father did not survive bowel cancer. Then in the year 2000, my sister suffered a fatal heart attack resulting from an inoperable tumour. I am thankful to have enjoyed my mother Dorothy’s company for longer: it was 2013 when Dorothy passed on in her 90th year. Dorothy was resident for a while in a dementia ward and I was impressed at how art was beginning to take an important role in the daily activities there. The hallways and rooms, where possible, were adorned with residents’ artworks and contributions of local artists’ works. When visiting Dorothy, I was invited to take part in these activities and join in Tai Chi, slow movement, family reminiscing, music (Dorothy played the organ and I sang along), and visiting groups were invited to play or act or dance to provide endless entertainment, activity, involvement and movement. The residents were encouraged to take part as much as possible. Enjoyment was had by all.

I can say that Dorothy was as bright, and as absolutely naughty, as when first becoming a resident of the facility which was alive and vibrant. I was overjoyed at watching residents, staff and visitors walk the hallways to stop and admire and enter into discussions about their favourite artworks on display.

Now my art has taken a significant role in my life and in researching what drawing is over the years, I must now add that each mark made by your hand, however small or large, each wobble or mistake, even what is left out, contains the memory of all of life’s experiences, the memory of every person met, and of every family member within them.

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Celebrating 60 years of Paintings in Hospitals in 2019

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Xersa is an internationally-exhibited contemporary artist with experience of over 20 solo and 40 group exhibitions in major galleries and museums. Her name was developed as a business name in the late 1970s through to the early 1990s. After studying Fine Art at the Ballarat Institute of Advanced Education (now Federation University) and Industrial Design and Fine Art at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Xersa worked at Selwyn’s Fabrics in Melbourne’s iconic Flinders Lane. She then set up a design studio for the textile industry called 'Xersa Designs'. Find out more about Xersa via her website.