Sydney Morning Herald, May 5 2009

Cramped … The Shrinking World by Chia Moan.
Clare Morgan Arts Editor

AS ALICE is trapped in the home of the White Rabbit, so people who suffer from chronic pain feel trapped in a world that few can understand.

Chia Moan’s painting Shrinking World aims to shed light on the effects of living with severe and persistent pain.

Moan is among 30 emerging and established artists in the show Windows On Pain, which follows last year’s inaugural event organised by the Pain Management Research Institute.

Moan was among artists who spoke to pain sufferers and says she remembers one patient who said she felt like Alice disappearing down the rabbit hole, with the opening at the top growing smaller and smaller.

“People who live with chronic pain deal very literally with shrinking options in their lives. If and how they can work, exercise, socialise, travel,” Moan says.

“Usual activities are affected, all subjected to scrutiny: what is possible, what is not? They also speak frequently about not being able to communicate their pain, wearing a mask.”

Some of the artists suffer from chronic pain. Sheila Annis’s installation, Portals, is designed so that when viewers enter, they experience isolation.

“When we think of pain we all too often simply think of the physicality of pain,” Annis says.

“But psychosomatic pain can never be underestimated. Pain works to disconnect us from ourselves as much as from others. It is made worse by isolation. Pain is my motivation to create art.”

Nikki Brown, from the Pain Management Research Institute, says chronic pain affects about 3.2 million Australians of working age and costs the nation about $34 billion in lost productivity and associated medical costs.

“Pain is still not very well discussed, much like depression 20 years ago,” she says.

The institute raised about $220,000 last year, and the show and auction won the Fundraising Institute Australia’s national award for best special event in 2008. This year’s auction will be at a the Art Gallery of NSW on June 12.

“The institute does research, education and clinical work. Where we fall short in our funding is being able to accelerate our research when there are exciting breakthroughs so we can help people more quickly,” Brown says.

Windows On Pain is at CarriageWorks, Redfern, until next Monday, Ewart Gallery, Willoughby, May 12-18, Gosford Regional Art Gallery, May 20-30, and Parramatta Riverside Theatres, June 1-10.