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Simon Bernhardt and the taboo topic of Cannabis

Simon Bernhardt

By Sarah Flynn

Believe me when I say this, I am not artistic. I can’t draw, or paint, I don’t know how to load a 35mm film and have only just established how to take a decent selfie. Being unknowledgeable about art however, doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate art and design in all forms. And in the past few months have loved dipping my toe into the pool of Sydney’s creative talent, which I have somehow only just been made aware of.

This week this “Art Amateur” was invited to Simon Bernhardt’s controversial “GATEWAY- Exhibition & Book launch” I couldn’t help but want to know as much about its creator and concept as possible.

Simon Bernhardt's Gateway- displayed in the cotemporary ‘Black Eye Gallery’ is one to get people talking. Cannabis was the topic of conversation and the focus point of the striking portraits of 16 men and women lining the walls. The commonly known recreational drug has recently stirred headlines with many countries and states in America legalising it to be sold commercially or in a permitted medical form. Despite this legalisation, it is still a wide spread Taboo and has been labelled as the “Gateway Drug” that could open up our society into deeper and darker drug use.

Simon Bernhardt Cannabis

Even a brief chat (it pays to know arty people who can introduce you to other arty people without it being too embarrassing) with the delightfully open and charming Simon Bernhardt, showed me that this is not the common belief, and that he and many others openly believe that we should question our opinions on Cannabis. His exhibition aimed to “challenge that stereotype” many envision when they think of weed smokers, and that there are regular people out there living regular lives which intertwine with cannabis, but don’t end up with them passed out in an alleyway dribbling.

“The exhibition and book aims to eliminate any emotion from the sensitive subject of illegal drug use and portrays the human face of each subjects personal story behind their cannabis use” (Black Eye Gallery)

I found myself standing squarely in front of each frame, enjoying the statement that each individual portrait conveyed, the eyes capturing you first and then following you around the room. Each face encircled by a cloud of silver smoke, showed everyday features and all their natural flaws (no airbrushing in sight) and really conveyed the ‘normalness’ and in some cases ‘gormlessness’ of these everyday users.

It wasn’t the quiet gallery I expected, with polite chatter and folks ‘mming’ and ‘aaahing’ in the respective pauses of each others conversation. But instead a chatty and upbeat discussion of the message this striking exhibition chose to convey. The support for Simon and his work is clear and renown. I encourage you to grab a coffee head over to Darlinghurst and spend an hour enlightening yourself on this matter

Simon Berhnardt

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