So I’m about half way through my MA now and really loving it – CSM is just an incredibly vibrant, exciting and stimulating place to be… My only complaint is that it’s all going far too quickly!
My art has always been about what it is to be human and emotionality and I have continued to explore this, adding layers from a psychoanalytical and cognitive neuropsychological perspective (well I am doing Art and Science!). Our very fragility of mind fascinates me and I am drawn to areas that highlight this and give insight into ourselves – I’ve also become increasingly aware of my art as a type of self-psychoanalysis.
The work I did for our recent Interim Show was as a direct response to something I found incredibly moving and insightful – I went to ‘Bedlam: the asylum and beyond’ at the Wellcome Collection… It looked quite complex so (and I never normally do this) I grabbed what I thought was an audio guide – only it wasn’t. It was actually a piece entitled ‘Our Voices’ – an audio companion bringing together interviews and spoken word with lived experiences of mental health issues.
To say that I was moved by it is a serious understatement – I found it harrowing and shocking and was deeply and profoundly affected by it… It made me withdraw into myself hunched on a bench whilst the words washed through me. The crazy thing is (and I was dimly aware of this) I was in complete control of the recordings – I could have turned off the voices at any point but instead I pressed play for the next track, and the next, and the next, until I had heard all ten.
It left me in a kind of dazed state… I felt like a zombie and at one point just wanted to collapse into the floor and be swallowed up – like I just wanted to escape the depths of suffering and hopelessness I had witnessed and now living on in my head. I felt low for several days afterwards.
I’ve attached a link so you can listen for yourself if you want to, but please do be prepared https://wellcomecollection.org/ourvoices
Anyway, a few weeks later, I decided I should have another listen to ‘Our Voices’. This time I was prepared for what I was going to hear and as a result whilst still moving, I was less profoundly affected. I wrote down a few of the lines that most resonated with me in my journal. And for no reason that I am aware of (I’m no poet), I felt compelled to write a verse as my own response to the voices:-
Hell is in My Head
Let me go under again
Got hell in my head
Hell in my head
Life holds no relief
I beg you
Let me go under again
I wanted to make an artistic response to this and found that with these words and in remembering the first time I heard the voices, I was able to take the emotions and feelings engendered in me and make a painting. I felt that this work would represent much about where I had got to in my practice and research, so that it would be perfect for my Interim Show piece.
Instinctively I felt that large scale would be best – to give the viewer an immersive experience. The painting itself was done spontaneously – working intuitively and quite rapidly with large gestural movements to make what I hoped would be my direct expressive response.
I used a paintbrush to ‘write’ my poem on top of a large cube which I stood in front of the painting – I thought it might help the viewer into the piece and that there might be some sort of interesting dialogue between the painting, the physicality of the cube and with the words of the poem. The cube was painted dark oxblood with a black top dripping down in heavily textured paint onto the red – as if smothering the box, a metaphor for the affect of the drugs.
The feedback was very positive and I was pleased with that and with the work itself (particularly not having painted much before and certainly never at this scale). I’m very excited about where my journey with paint will take me next, and even have it in mind to start working back with sculpture (an element of my practice neglected of late due to my new love affair with paint and it’s ability for spontaneous expression…). Watch this space!