While butchered dolls may seem a callous starting point for creating art, Freya’s practice is anything but. “I aim to use materials that have their own history and story which I like to recontextualize to create new narratives,” she says. “I personally do not want to add to the excess detritus on this planet by using new materials.” Both the subject matter and artistic approach of her winning photographic series BREATH reflect Freya’s interest in environmental concerns and sustainability, and evidently struck a chord with the prize’s judging panel.
The theme of the prize, That Summer Feeling, invited myriad readings. Freya’s entry stood out for its stark and simultaneously poetic depiction of the devastation caused by the bushfires that ravaged during the Australian summer of 2019-2020. Taken at a nearby property impacted by the fires, the pared back composition of the photograph allows the theatre of the mask and bush background to sing; indeed, the image is all the more harrowing for its understatement. Reminiscent of the gas masks first pioneered during World War I, Freya’s custom-made mask provokes an immediately chilling effect on the viewer, insinuating the scale and severity of climate change as it plays out on the world stage.
“There is something unsettling and almost uncanny about the scene depicted, but as viewers we are not immediately aware of what the nature is of the danger that lurks,” commented Jerico Tracy, gallery director of Jerico Contemporary. This appreciation for Freya’s masterful evocation of the unknown was echoed by other judges, including esteemed Sri Lankan Australian artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran. “There is an underlying ambiguity or even mystery to this work which makes it highly compelling,” he said. “It’s pretty hard to generate nuanced or engaging imagery involving masks in our current climate – this work seems to do that.”
“A lot of my time is spent searching for materials in secondhand stores, at my regular favourites and all the ones on my travels,” says Freya. In the 30-acre surrounds of her property near Picton, the artist creates work in her own time and on her own terms – work that is frequently uncanny, uncomfortable, and sometimes downright confronting. “Yes, I aim to cause a reaction,” she says. “Response = conversation.”