Currently untitled - creating art around my experiences in therapy and with overcoming mental health issues
The Journey up until now:
Since graduating from Byam Shaw in London with a Postgraduate Diploma in Fine Art my work hasn’t really been up to much. I was living and working in London with the financial pressures and general stress of work and a toxic relationship. Over a number of years I explored drug use in the hope it would make me a better artist; in actual fact in early 2011 I developed Schizophrenia and was hospitalised on a couple of occasions, resulting in my giving up drugs on February the 11th 2011 which I found very easy. I have made a little work in between but nothing with a running concept behind it; some individual pieces have been good but the majority is nothing to write home about.
I originally got this website going in order to show myself what I had achieved creatively between 2011 and 2017; the result was too busy and showing too much. I have since begun removing things again and trying to make the page more streamlined. I also wanted to try and make more interesting work again and wanted the challenge of creating and working to a concept, hoping that I will be able to keep an interest going.
New studio space, new project:
I have been working full time for around three years now and undergoing therapy for a couple of years. Generally I am well; I don’t have Schizophrenia symptoms any more and only suffer with mild Depression and Anxiety from time to time. I will be on medication for life but it is better than a life of constant fear, delusions, swimming the Serpentine and being hospitalised every now and again.
After being on the waiting list for a local studio space I finally moved in about six weeks or so ago. It has been a very long time since I have been in an environment like it and around other creative people who pursue their work and quest for knowledge seriously. I can only spend a small amount of time their each week due to work commitments and the housework that never seems to end and equally never seems to get done.
I needed a starting project to get me back on track and to try and re-focus my brain back into the art world after such a long time away. I decided to use my current therapy as a project, to not only learn about myself more but to try and get people talking about mental health more. I am part of a small local group who aim to get rid of the stigma surrounding mental health by talking openly about it.
My current therapy looks at ‘Community of Self’ – I am not a trained mental health professional so have only the patient perspective to look at this from. So far I have had quite a few sessions and find that I am learning a huge amount about myself and how I think.
I have managed to break down my personality into 11 different characters; each one does a slightly different thing. There is Addict, Creative, Healthy, Lonely, Negative, Worrier, Investigator, Joker, Hippie, Lazy and Protector.
Addict loves bad food, cigarettes and caffeine. He is an older man, over weight and wears a business suit. He can be helpful in the creative process and can be helpful in calming me down, making me think and generally pacifying me. He frequently teams up with Lazy and helps me do what I call ‘positive procrastination’ which is the avoidance of tasks by doing other tasks. For example I am meant to be doing housework and cleaning out my fish tonight but I am actually writing instead.
Creative is a sassy, sexy and optimistic woman in her early 30’s. She loves new creative ideas and loves to push boundaries. She needs a lot of mental stimulation and loves music and cultural events. Creative just wants to make art and mix with creative people.
Healthy is a young and slender 20 year old who love exercise, eating healthy food and getting out and about. She hates smoking and doesn’t think much of addict. She can be found out for long walks, in the gym or cooking healthy meals. She is clean, tidy and organised.
Lonely is a very young teenage girl and is my ‘problem character’; she doesn’t quite get life or other people’s senses of humour. Lonely is childish, immature and gets upset easily. She needs constant attention. She plays up quite often and can push forward to the front of my personality from time to time.
Negative is a little old man who is balding and smokes a pipe. He likes routine and wears a cardigan. He keeps negative comments all on file and is able to bring them out to show the others on a whim. He can wind up lonely and wind up worrier and enjoys the results. He can sometimes work well with creative to produce artwork.
Worrier is a woman in her 30’s who constantly worries and over thinks everything. She can be like a dog with a bone and doesn’t let her troubles drop very easily. Her obsessive tendencies, when channelled in the right direction can be a good thing but left to their own devices she can be self destructive.
Investigator is a man in his 30’s, he is logical, organised and introspective. He likes to be sociable but wants to talk about ideas, he also like cultural events, travel and exploring. He can be found thinking, doing photography, meeting new people and travelling. He is self sufficient and stable. He likes the more positive characters in my personality but doesn’t have a lot of time for the more negative, intrusive ones. He is the observer and can sit down and see the other characters for who they really are and how they fit in.
Joker is gender neutral and in their early 30’s. They are sassy, quick witted, dark and can be bitchy. Joker makes fun of everybody else in my internal community and externally and is one of my more outward facing characters. Joker just wants to have fun and dislikes people who take themselves too seriously or who are arrogant.
Hippie is a woman in her early 30’s, she has long, flowing hair, wears bright dresses and loves everyone. She cares about the environment and has positive relationships with people and animals. She is compassionate; trusting and loving towards those she meets and does not judge. Hippie loves the summer and loves music and art.
Lazy is manipulative given the opportunity, cuts corners and is dirty and messy. He doesn’t like to have a wash and is generally unkempt. Lazy hates doing anything and would rather sit around eating bad food with addict than get up and do something more productive. He is the voice of the ‘can’t be bothered’.
Protector is an older, bald man with a long beard. He is only present at times that I need to be careful, such as going out drinking or going somewhere unfamiliar after dark alone. He is the little voice on my shoulder telling me not to drink too much, asking me how I am going to get home and directing me on the safest route. He is streetwise and careful.
I have been thinking about all of these characters interactions with one another in given situations, at the moment I have been trying to find ways of inviting the more positive ones forward and of helping to educate and guide lonely so she has a chance to grow more stable and less problematic. Ideally Addict wouldn’t be there but everybody has their vices.
During my short time in the studio so far I have been making small chairs – roughly 11 inches in height – for each of these characters to sit on. I would like to make small sculptures of each of them. The plan would be to photograph different groups of them together depending on different situation then to add in thought and speech bubbles. I would like to show them together in an installation.
I have started their designs however feel some of them don’t quite work so well as people – I am a little worried they would be seen as dolls rather than sculptures. I am not very girly so am not keen on the idea of making lots of little dolls, however they could reflect femininity.
Today I have been chatting with one of my studio friends and have come away with brain ache. I found myself in the library after lunch reading and printing off articles about the scale of the work, thinking about how I want others to see it and how they might see it, questioning if scale is important.
I have also been questioning where I want to go with the work and what overall aim I have for the project. At the moment I am not too sure where it is going as it was supposed to be a gentle step back into things. I am not sure what question I want to ask through my work.
Due to my experiences over the past seven years I would like to start investigating mental health however am struggling at the moment to narrow that down. I have done a little online research and have discovered a handful of artists who are also exploring this theme. I want to start with my personal journey and experiences then try and build from there. At this early stage I have more questions than answers.
I have been thinking today about running workshops and have come across the idea of story telling. For example asking others to look at my work and then look at their own characters then as a group make up a story around a small group of their characters that either has a positive or a negative ending.
This afternoon I have also been thinking about funding options; it would be nice to be able to reduce my hours at work in order to spend more time working creatively although it is a massive, scary step and probably wouldn’t go down so well with some of my family members.