By Eryn Crowl



Anonymously pairing artists of all mediums to consider the theme of narrative, Melbourne photographer Shannyn Higgins sought to establish a harmony within the local art scene and thus, her experiment Duality was born.


Shannyn paired 25 visual artists with 25 writers in a bid to explore the ways narrative can be interpreted through art and displayed the findings from the 23-24 October in the city’s No Vacancy Gallery. 


“I’m fascinated by how differently people perceive the same experiences,” explains Higgins.


“(Duality) came about from the conversations I was having as a photographer with other artists and I was always trying to get these artists in the same room together. To turn that into a tangible experience came about from my desire to expand on and pair these wonderful conversations I was having,” she says.


First launched in Vancouver, Canada, last year, Higgins brought her project to her hometown of Melbourne to see how her fellow artists interpreted their paired artist’s written prompt. 


“(Duality) is essentially a sample of a city,” says Higgins.


“Melbourne has an incredible emerging and well-established talent… There is art everywhere and I slowly began building up a selection of phenomenal local artists to reach out to.”


Artists really are a product of the world they build around them.”


Capturing the artists in their creative space, Higgins photographed each artist to snapshot the environmental factors that influence them daily.


In fly-on-the-wall scenario, Higgins shared her photographs with the viewer as an intriguing invitation to their artistic pondering and thought process during the project. 


“Photographing each artist in their creative space really gave an insight into each artist’s individual style and approach to work… Artists really are a product of the world they build around them,” says Higgins.


Each of the chosen 25 writers shared a sentence, lyric or thought from their personal notebooks, with the 25 visual artists given seven days to express the paired prompt in their desired medium.


Bringing together a cross section of creatives, from screenwriters to street artists; to journalists to illustrators; Higgins wanted a diverse array of talent from all walks of life.


Screenwriter and actor, Jamie Vegter pulled out his phrase, “When will it stop” from his personal archives, with Shannyn pairing his prompt with street artist Unwell Bunny.


“The piece I chose was six years old from the screenplay of my feature film ‘Dead Feather.’ The sentence derived from the protagonist who is dealing with mental instability from PTSD,” explains Jamie.


“It was difficult sifting through years of songs, poetry and screenplays but in the end I chose something to leave the visual artist with an open ended creative point of view… (Unwell Bunny) created a pop-art Picasso feel and I didn’t expect that,” he says.


Freelance illustrator Kate Gagliardi’s piece was intensely raw, inspired by songwriter HOWQUA’s prompt;


“Surprise is saving lives

While she dreams of city lights

Dreams of meeting Mr Right

Pumping hearts, connecting minds”


“I spent most of my time scribbling in my sketchbook, playing around with the words. I wanted to keep the rawness of my quick, layered strokes and marks,” says Kate.



“I spent a lot more time in thought before tackling my response… I wanted my piece to reflect the time I spend in my sketchbook; that inwards reflection and raw mark-making.”




The carefully curated coffee table book “Duality” features all elements of Higgin’s experiment including the final artworks and paired prompt, photographs of each artist’s creative studio and thoughts on the project itself from the participating artists.   


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Eryn is a freelancer writer with a penchant for the arts and enduring passion for the written word.

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