Works on paper by Helen Brancatisano
This exhibition is the culmination of numerous visits to Cockatoo Island and research into the turbulent history of the ‘Biloela’ Industrial School for Girls established on the island in 1871. Its purpose was to remove destitute girls from the streets of Sydney while providing them with an education that would enable employment in domestic positions. The institution, however, was plagued with mismanagement and cruelty. The girls were housed in the original convict prison, and the name ‘Biloela’, an aboriginal word for ‘cockatoo’, was chosen to wipe out association with the notorious convict years on the island.
In the face of their inescapable situation the girls were often defiant and vociferous. Their turbulent story moves through the island’s immutable sandstone cliffs and the physical remains of the prison.
These works, including drypoint etchings, monotypes and mixed media, strive to evoke the haunting human presence of those now absent, linking us to our past.