Describe the concepts behind your art work, and how these have changed over the years

Art has always been the most important thing in my life, my passion for it reflected through my growing knowledge of art and artists, interest in contemporary art and also in my own artwork. My connection with art stems from a very young age; as a child I was always busy making collages, drawing and sewing. I have always searched for a deeper meaning through my artwork, and art has always been something that has driven me, giving me the greatest sense of fulfilment.

At it’s core, my art work has always been focused around both identity and consciousness; what it feels like to be ‘human’. This self-reflective and narrative style of working has helped me to understand the healing qualities that making art work brings. Through image making, I have come to realise that my art work has been a tool to help me better understand myself, and to enable me to come to terms with difficult feelings and events that have occurred throughout my life. My visual diaries that I kept for many years acted as form of personal therapy, an outlet.

This understanding lead me to my current role as an occupational therapy assistant, working alongside both occupational therapists and other therapeutic professionals. In my job, I explore creative potential with individuals, looking at how this can improve their mental health, and lead them also to a sense of self-awareness and unity. Later this year, I will be studying an Art Psychotherapy Masters course at Goldsmiths University in London. My current art work follows my own personal journey before training, and inevitably touches on the experiences of others that I encounter.

While my earlier work focused on the theme of portraiture, in both conventional and nonconventional depictions, my recent work is more abstract and heavily influenced by my work in mental health services. The connection between the two being a fascination of humanity and human experience. My interest in image making has not only helped me become an improved communicator, but also through my experiences understand how art is a central tool for human interaction and emotional expression.

Through my recent work, I have explored the nature of consciousness, as well as the altered states of mind people experience through illness, drugs, hallucinations and dreams. My art has allowed me to contemplate intense emotional states experienced through my work with psychiatric patients. While I have worked with patients suffering from neurological and psychiatric illnesses, I have also seen others afflicted by multiple traumas and losses. I feel that this is something that we all as humans can relate to, and I hope that my work can speak to people on a deeper level. Dreams, hallucinations, or the intricacies in our neurological processes are not concrete experiences, but abstract to us and difficult to share with others in any true sense.

I wondered if by sharing my interpretations, I could communicate ideas and experiences that would be more difficult to do so verbally. I side with the notion that each one of us are on a spectrum of mental health, and my understanding has only deepened through working. As a nature byproduct of my role’s close proximity to the patients, at times I have absorbed some of their unresolved and unprocessed material and feelings. Through this, getting in touch with something deep and sometimes disturbing can be quite alarming, perhaps dipping a metaphorical toe into another’s sense of reality. While I feel that my art has expressed my own thoughts and ideas on these complex subjects, only through others can I discover if the works can hold shared meanings, understanding and experience.

Although I strongly believe that my own artistic expression is a personal one, it would be hard to refute the influence, whether subconsciously or directly, of the patients on my expression. This would be through both transference and counter transference. When leading art classes for the patients on the wards, they share with me aspects of their inner worlds through the art, I then contemplate these interactions. I feel that much of this happens at an unconscious level.

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How do you represent abstract experiences in the physical medium of painting and collage?

I began this body of work through the use of visual diaries. I found concertina sketchbooks an effective way to experiment with ideas, and give a sense of a journey. These sketchbooks have inspired larger art works on canvas and paper, the themes explored and expanded upon.

Primarily, I use my own experiences of dreams and hallucinations; particularly hypnopompic hallucinations and the stages that I experience before drifting to sleep. The flashing images and surreal content does not make sense on waking, but in this state one is more aware of the subconscious and its processes. Not only is collage a medium that I have used for many years, I feel it is also a way to work impulsively and automatically, linking well to the subconscious. Through making these works, I quickly identify images that I find both appealing and disturbing. The process of the art making is also one of working from within, often adding layers without knowing where the image is going. By trusting an ‘inner sense’, the spontaneity of splashing and dripping paint feels intuitive. With an idea of a greater theme, such as dreams or psychosis, the process of the art is in a state of flow.

As well as using images in collage, I have also been using words, exploring the use of language and its fragmentation. Moreover, with such experiences words can become an irrelevant way of recording. I have used different colour combinations and layering as a way to suggest confusion, euphoria and dreamlike experiences in psychosis and other altered and extreme emotional states. The multiplicity of colours and layers are also an attempt to reflect our state of flux and continuous change in experience.

Through further research into neurology and visiting the Wellcome Collection, I became heavily influenced by Neurological photographs and CT scans. In my work, the scientific imagery links the abstract and physical aspects of being. Recent research in attachment theory and neurology has underlined the physical impact that mental illnesses and trauma have on the brain. I was both intrigued and inspired by the beautiful and intricate patterns of neurones and cells. Many of the circular formations of my works are inspired by these shapes. Circles in a broader sense are repeated throughout nature, and have a quality of wholeness and of sense of self. Many of my works feature mandalas, an archetype present in religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, circular patterns symbolising a balance in the universe.

Artistic influences

Recently, I’ve drawn inspiration from mixed media artist Chris Ofili. I’m attracted to his innovative use of collage and creation of new imagery. I hope to explore some of his mixed media techniques further, such as the use of polyester resin and other unconventional art materials. His experimental use of colour and sense of freedom has gripped me since the first time I saw it in person at the Tate Modern. I feel that through studying his work I have learnt a great deal.chris-ofili-new-museum-05

Chris Ofili, Third Eye Vision, 1999

Oil, acrylic, paper collage, glitter, polyester resin, map pins and elephant dung on linen

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Transference and Dreams

April 4, 2015

_MG_1799_MG_1800 _MG_1811 _MG_1810 I began these drawings a few weeks ago, beginning with wet paper and adding inks to make feathery and spidery effects (later adding watercolour). I was inspired after visiting the Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden exhibition at the Tate Modern; her amazing ink drawings pinned together on the gallery wall. As I had recently been working in ink, I appreciated her fluid use of this diverse and unpredictable material. I found the image below from the exhibition on the Guardian website. The concept for my own drawings is the idea of transference; the projection of intense and difficult emotions, an experience which can be unavoidable when working in mental health. I imagined these images, and used colour combinations to show intense emotional states. The faces are dreamlike and not unlike masks, symbolising the metaphorical façades that others give us; projecting unconscious feelings and past unresolved relationships. Marlene Dumas retrospective, Tate Modern, London, Britain - 03 Feb 2015 I have also been working on concertina sketchbooks, enjoying the long and flowing format that can be stretched out or folded away in a swift movement. The images below show sketchbooks using inks and watercolours, as well as collage and acrylic paint. I began the watercolour sketchbook by working in pencil, drawing from postcards of brain tissue, neurones and CT brain scans, mixing these with my own patterns. The acrylic and collage sketchbook continues the idea of surreal dream imagery; both sketchbooks work as visual mind landscapes. _MG_1808 _MG_1806 _MG_1804 _MG_1803 _MG_1802 _MG_1814 _MG_1813 _MG_1812 _MG_1815

A Year later

July 25, 2014

Hello all….it has been a year since I last posted on this blog, so I have decided to get back into blogging and to write about my recent work and experiences. I have got onto the MA Art Psychotherapy Course at Goldsmiths University (which I hope to start next year), and have been enjoying making art work with both patients with dementia and patients with psychiatric illnesses in my most recent jobs. These jobs have been so rewarding, but at the same time can be draining and challenging. At times I have felt so unmotivated to make art work,  as I really give my all to the people that I work with.  I know that art is my central focus, but for many others this is not the case . Some people don’t get anything from it, but others can discover art for the first time and find it deeply therapeutic. This to me is amazing, it makes it all worthwhile.

I have known since the age of 6 that art was what I wanted to do with my life, I remember feeling so excited when we did art classes- and wishing that we could paint all of the time. Art therapy appeals so much to me because I can combine this passion with my interest in people and the human condition.

Since moving down south my art work has changed, as I have no studio to work in,  sketchbooks have been both an accommodating and exciting way to record my experiences and feelings of working with troubled and unwell people. Some of the work focused on my obsession of death and mortality and the existential dilemma that we all face as human beings. I used collage and words to give a flavour of the language and confusion of working on a psychiatric ward, and also explored difficult feelings that come through bereavement and sudden trauma. The art work has helped me to clarify and understand my own feelings, I am hoping to develop these ideas and to have an exhibition some time in the future. These images are from my sketchbook that focuses on the cycle of life and death and issues of mortality.

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Some people ask why I don’t just make art work and sell it, but this just doesn’t appeal to me at the moment. I think it all comes down to the question of ‘why’ we make art work, and what we get from it. The series of portraits that I was working on last year just sort of came to a stand still, my temporary studio in my old flat was packed away and my working rhythm was disrupted. This is life I guess, and I feel that sometimes time away from art can be just as important as the art making itself. Now I am unsure about what sort of painting I want to do, I just know that my sketchbook and collage work feels instant and communicates how I feel very well.

When working with an art therapist in my current job, the emphasis in the art therapy group is not on us and our art work, but on the patients. We must be one hundred percent present in the moment for them, in this group I doodle as the patients use the space to think about how they are feeling, and what they think about the ward environment and the difficult journeys that they have taken to be in hospital. My doodles are non representative, but are expressive on a deeper level in that they reflect and the group environment and also reflect on vibes or feelings that can be transferred by other group members. An experiential course that I attended this year introduced me to the theories behind art therapy, and also allowed me to reflect on my own difficult life experiences through art making. A different aspect involved was that we discussed and analysed our images together, and that the work was made in a safe group environment. We were given themes like ‘a difficult relationship’ and ‘a reflection of the day’, through interpreting these themes we made them relevant to ourselves and spent time deeply reflecting while making the art work.

As well as gaining experience towards my career in art therapy, I have finally finished my album cover commission for Claire Boswell. It’s really exciting to see my visual work reaching a larger audience,  it has been a pleasure to creatively collaborate and to realise this image using both of our visions and ideas.

Album Cover