Currently residing in Bundjalung country in Northern NSW, Matt Ottley is an acclaimed and multiple award-winning author and illustrator. His most recent picture book, How to make a bird (with Meg McKinlay), was the winner of the CBCA’s Picture Book of the Year Award and joint winner of the Prime Minister’s Award for Children’s Literature.


Having launched at the end of February 2022, The Tree of Ecstasy and Unbearable Sadness is a groundbreaking,
large-scale multi-modal project weaving together the worlds of literature, music and visual art in the poignant story of one boy’s journey into mental illness. Readers and listeners are offered a mesmerising visual and auditory tour de force about beauty and resilience, society and belief, that at its heart expresses hope for a greater understanding and embracing of difference.


The Tree of Ecstasy and Unbearable Sadness is a work created for young adults/adults and contains 74 artworks and a 50 minute musical work.


The narrative unfolds around the metaphor of a tree, growing within the boy, whose flower is ecstasy and whose fruit is sadness. This luminous, multi-faceted work is inspired by the experiences of its award-winning creator, Matt Ottley, who has lived with bipolar disorder all his life and been hospitalised on numerous occasions in mental health facilities. Having personally experienced the prejudices and challenges that come from suffering a mental illness, Matt’s aim is to offer a sensory insight through words, music and images into the experiences of those who suffer from such debilitating illnesses, particularly psychosis.


Find out more.