Knee-deep (Portrait of Lisa McCune)
2022, oil on linen, 180 x 122 cm
Lisa McCune has long been one of Australia’s most popular stage and screen actors. Yvonne East’s portrait of her started with a dream in which she saw McCune wading through water, dressed in white pants and top, with her distorted image reflected in the dark waters. ‘This reverie of Lisa dealing with adversity depicts her resilience, empathy and fiercely maternal approach to life,’ says East. ‘Lisa was incredibly generous and agreed to go along with my crazy vision. I constructed a pond in a warehouse and we went through a series of outfits and ideas. This particular pose resonated with me because of its power. Her stance simply says, “I am here”. ‘The water represents obstacles that many have faced in recent times: loss of shelter due to dramatic climate change events, the loss of security experienced by artists due to lack of support during the pandemic, and the public reckoning with the treatment of women. ‘This painting is a statement,’ says East. ‘Much has changed in the last 50 years. The rubbish people used to deal with won’t be accepted anymore. We are more experienced, thoughtful and self-aware, and we hope to make things better for current and future generations.’ Further notes: A horizon line is not visible in the painting. It is Lisa and her reflection. The distortions and uncontrollable nature of the reflection represent how, as members of a society, we are reflected in those around us. Our identity is a construction of what is reflected to us - which can be distorted. Lisa’s youngest, and my child are close to the same age and are growing into young adulthood – it is a time for our own personal reflection – what are our contributions and legacy? As we move into a new stage of life, the process of reflection enables insight into many of the social norms and values that were previously confusing or taken for granted. Much has changed in the last fifty years and what we experienced as young people can be reframed as a refusal to acknowledge systemic difficulties for those with marginalised experiences. We have feelings of frustration, anger, and disappointment at the actions of those in power and their unwillingness to comprehend and make change to better the lives of those who are most vulnerable. This painting is a statement, we are getting older but the old shit we used to deal with won’t be accepted anymore. We have survived and we are still here, more experienced, thoughtful, and self-aware. The waters have not overcome us yet. Damaging social norms are like the water, powerful and sometimes silent, but also changing, transitioning, and movable.