As an artist, I’ve always been fascinated by the way in which every map tells a story.

There is no such thing as the objective map. Every cartographic endeavour seeks to map out a kind of ‘truth’ or story whilst leaving out other ‘truths’ or stories. Maps can be read as elaborate narratives.

They have a narrator, the map-maker; a central character, usually yourself; a journey, obstacles, and various points of interest. The choice of what is included and left out of a map creates this narrative. Every map, even the GPS map in your phone has an omnipresent narrator guiding what you see.

Maps can tell dark stories making real the fictions of empires, charting conquest and subjugation. However they can also be used to tell positive stories.

In my art practice I seek to map and therefore reveal the historically hidden positive world of, my LGBTQI+ community. Subverting conventions of cartography to create subjective psycho-geographic maps of the psychological, real and imagined spaces within the LGBTQI+ community.

As I attempted to do in ‘Gay Map Sydney’ and ‘Gay Man Map’ which we’re both recently acquired by the State Library of NSW for their LGBTQI+ archive.

In ‘Gay Map of Sydney’ I use my own personal life as a gay man in Sydney, my experiences, interactions, anecdotes, shared community, history and subculture to ‘map’ the, at times, subterranean geography of gay men in Sydney. For most of Sydney’s history gay sex was illegal and the gay male community had to use their own slang language, hidden references and secret meeting places to create secret ‘maps’ of where to be themselves without persecution. Today with the advent of Grindr and other gay dating location apps a new kind of subculture geography has emerged. This map traces this history, geography and subculture using humor, according to this gay male Millennial. In addition the aesthetic of the map references 15th century maps of the world. Incorporating the the borders of the map the different ‘life stages’ of a gay man.

In ‘Gay Man Map’ I seek to map the psychological world of a gay man as an island. Using Alan Downs seminal work ‘Velvet Rage’ I map out the 3 stages of gay men psychology coming out, seeking validation and the quest of authenticity. At its centre is the Citadel of Self, flanked by the City of Love and the City of Sex, with Ego palace in the middle. At the top is the summit of authenticity with each mountain range one of the rainbow flag colours. The map is an Island, surrounded by the Sea of Consciousness, Straight Island and Lesbian Island. Within the map locations like: Pride Forest, Shame Desert, Land of the Closet, Pleasure Point, The Well of Loneliness, Point of No Return, PrEP Castle, Shipwrecks of Ex Boyfriends, Hookup Ranges, The Haunted House of High School, Vanities of Vanities, Reef of Regret, Fear of Failure Dragon, Islands of Expectation vs Reality, Fear of Ageing Valley, Tower of Generations, Cum Volcano, Industrial Section of ‘I Want What I Can’t Have’, Peter Pan Syndrome, the Ruins of Religion, No Man’s Land of Abomination, Trauma rocks, the eyes of the Queer Gaze, Fag Hag Island, Sea of Nature vs. Nurture, suburb of The Forbidden Fruit, the waiting zone of Some Day, the Tower of Future, the ruins of the Past, and finally the Large Close Mum Moon and the Distant Father Sun.

In ‘Saint Sebastian’ I used the hidden gay slang words of the Polari to cover the body of a man based off the Renaissance anatomist Andreas Vesalius. The idea that you can read someones sexuality as a map, if you know how to interpret the coded language of the body.

My drawing style moves from small- to large-scale as I operate rhizomatically, bringing a vast array of drawn information together in a matrix that is able to illuminate the connections between seemingly unrelated subjects. This methodology incorporates representations of landscapes and people with written words, phrases, slogans, quotes, symbols, and stories informed by my English literature and creative writing degree. Starting with a subject to map, the drawing grows organically and with minimal overall plan, from a central point until the whole paper is covered.

Currently I am a PhD candidate in drawing I will be focusing on one of the greatest good news stories of our time: the possible ending of HIV, through the introduction of the anti-retroviral drug Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis known as PrEP. As part of my PhD I will be creating an atlas of 4 large scale detailed drawing maps. The first is a commissioned drawing from the University of Sydney’s Fisher Library for, a permanent display, to map the history of gay pride in Sydney. Charting the changing topography of the community from vulnerability, shame and fear to a new re-sexualisation and celebration since the introduction of PrEP.

Ultimately my maps uncover the unseen world’s of an at times hidden in plain sight community. I hope to inspire the audience to think about their own personal internal ‘maps’ of how they see themselves, their city and psychology based on their own unique culture, history and language. Re-drawing the map to tell positive personal stories.

Jeremy Smith | Mapping Hidden Worlds | M2 SPACE

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