For artist Abbey Ashfield Crook (she/her) the commission by TPG Telecom to create a work of art responding to a brief on love and acceptance was intensely personal.
"Art is expression. But until this brief I had never used art to express myself. I’m used to portraying how other people want to see art. I had never really found that emotional place before. The work came from a personal space that I was able to fluidly pull together," said Abbey.
For Pride Month, TPG Telecom engaged four artists to respond to different briefs on the themes of belonging/inclusion, equality, celebration and love/acceptance.
The process began with the organisation asking all TPG Telecom employees, “Why are you proud to stand together with the LGBTQI+ community?”
The responses were grouped into the four themes and members of the Connect Committee then put together a personal response to each theme.
“When it comes to love, the small, everyday gestures can have an even bigger impact than the larger, grand ones. The cups of tea together at the end of a hard day or exploding into a fit of giggles at a personal joke, wraps me up in a blanket of warmth of security. For me, the same is true at work, where consistent, little reminders will foster a sense of security and acceptance,” wrote Emma Salkild, a member of Connect.
“When I applied for the job at TPG Telecom, my manager’s email signature had a rainbow logo and pronouns, and when I came into the building I saw scattered rainbows everywhere – on corridor walls, TV screens and on lanyards around people’s necks. These gestures became a protective shield, whispering, “You’re safe, you’re safe, you’re safe.”
When Abbey Ashfield Crook read these words, the creative juices started bubbling away.
“I read the brief and I was I overwhelmed with the words of love and acceptance. My mind shot off in all directions. Going through it though the direction became really clear. I found a lot of similarities in the story. It was a bit surreal and intimidating at first because it meant so much on a personal level,” said Abbey.
“I wanted this piece to be bright and to be focused on connection, or re-connection of two people. An embrace that screams love and acceptance, perhaps two partners embracing in love, or someone who is holding their friend or loved one in a show of acceptance or recognition. People embracing each other and who they are, their colours spilling off each other and dancing around them. A sense of pride to be exactly who they were meant to be. It’s the shadow finally lifting and, in its place, a vibrant burst of emotion and colour. An embrace that you can feel by just looking – one that draws a sigh or relief after theoretically holding your breath for years. A comforting wrap that expels any fear or anxiety.”
Dylan Mooney, a proud queer Yuwi, Torres Strait and South Sea Islander man from Mackay in North Queensland who works across painting, printmaking, digital illustration and drawing hopes that his work responding to the theme of equality resonates with the audience.
“It’s a conversation starter, people love looking at art to find out more about the messages. It helps to start a dialogue for change. Art can change people’s perception of things. We have different thoughts and ideas that someone else might have,” said Dylan.
“I’m interested in the ways in which we can reframe the conversation around some of the voices that have been left out. In the work I’ve made for TPG Telecom, the digital portrait focuses on queer love and illustrates my personal experience as a proud queer Indigenous man. Identity, desire, and representation are brought together, and subjects stand proudly and defiantly, gazing out at the viewer.”
With messages of resilience, survival and thriving, Dylan hopes his work resonates with the audience.
Abbey Rich (they/them), who responded to the inclusion and belonging brief, was impressed that a company like TPG Telecom was putting a focus on advancing equality in the workplace.
“It was really lovely. Some corporations do public facing exercises for box ticking. But this was really special. Workplaces have to be safe and recognise the diversity of their staff. To be involved in this project is special,” said Abbey.
“The two hands reaching together represent inclusion and coming together, something that often features in my work. Responding to the thoughts shared by TPG Telecom, this coming together is reflective of equality and pride. That no matter how you identify we can all feel included and powerful. This sort of symbolism is quiet and gentle and signifies a softness whilst having a strong connection.”
Lisa Dino (she/her) was also a pleasantly surprised when she first read her brief on celebration.
“I was thrilled! It’s great to know a big corporation like TPG Telecom push for campaigns like this that supports the LGBTQIA+ community. To actively hire artists and create artwork from stories of their employees, I think is a beautiful way to show their support for their own,” said Lisa.
“Incorporating a strong support for the inclusion of LGBTQIA+ community means that the company is creating a safe working environment and they welcome a sense of belonging for their employees. I think having a diverse and inclusive work environment inspires success and positive employee engagement. As a long-standing ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, I knew I had to jump at this opportunity as it would open up an avenue of showcasing my art and to create something special in celebration of pride. Upon reading the prompt given to me for inspiration, I was thrilled to see the theme of Celebration.”
Working under the alias ‘Elrosabel’, Lisa who hails from the New Zealand but now calls Melbourne home, creates works that are known to possess a strongly feminine and edgy visual art style with the contrast of vibrant and pastel tones.
“After reading such a personal and in-depth story of this individual’s journey in the brief, I immediately felt motivated to come up with this visual of a fierce warrior princess waving the progressive pride flag from their sword, riding their trusty steed who is a flying unicorn with trans coloured wings. I thank the individual at TPG Telecom who shared their story to help me create this colourful piece and I hope that my depiction through digital paint strokes pays homage to their experiences or uplifts and empowers anyone else who sees this,” said Lisa.