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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A Self Portrait in Words

October 3, 2010

The morning after the night before. I wake…with regret…ask myself why?? slight nausea. I need coffee. Here I am with a pen and paper letting my thoughts escape, describing it all with words. What are words? Just sounds really…syllables, if you repeat them they become abstract. Drinking, drunk, I was drunk. I did things I regret, a kiss, another kiss, dancing, sleeping, not waking, dreaming, waking, dreaming, thinking, my thoughts are too much. I am talking about myself, my perspective, what my eyes see…is what I see the truth? Is it real?

People, new names, faces, ‘Hello my name is jenny’ eyes, eye contact, we are all people but what do we actually have in common? I love people, I hate people, I need people, I wish I didn’t. Aberystwyth, the sea, the sounds, walking, the welsh accent. Cuddles in bed, alone in the day, listening to The Smiths, maybe too much. Tired, noodles, lack of internet, it’s 4am again. My tin of peaches is still in the fridge from last week, a party went wrong. I kissed a girl and I liked it. The rot on our wall is like rot on my eyes, I cover it with a poster but I know it’s still there. My self portrait is in the café, I am watching you, I am thinking of you, but should I waste my time?

Shit, shit shit. Now that is disgusting, don’t even look at it. The ultimate mood killer. Google is the answer to modern problems, and it is the cause. What is communication? Talking face to face without a keyboard probably, no offence Stephen Hawking. Internet flirtations are a bad idea. Text messages, 24 hour spar….all distractions. Life is a distraction. The only thing certain in life is death. Life goes on, shit happens. The photos on our wall cover the dirty….dirtiness beneath. It’s easy to get lost in the insignificant details. The girl with one blue eye and one brown eye. The blonde girl with bright blue eyes. I have green eyes that are slightly orange, yellow, blue tinged. Eyes, eyes, eyes are the window to your soul. How many different ways are there of seeing, looking, observing? You can stop listening now, and just watch. You can stop watching now, and just listen. You can, we can, I can…think. About what? Everything, nothing, something…on your mind? What is it?

An ecstatic hobo is waiting in blue velvet for Spencer. Help me escape my thoughts panda bear, I see a flock of manic seagulls, a guilty pleasure, a noodle poem, I’m throwing stones. The world itself is the bad dream. Indigenous purple is my reincarnation, borderline sleeplessness; grey bird and pink fish. Polina, Amy, Marcus, Nick, Harry, Ben, Laura, Beth, jam jam jam jamtastic. Germany and it’s drooping flag is drawn in awful blue ink… fluzy queen pulp fiction, and a broken record player. I’m alone with my thoughts for too long. The shower is pink and broken glass lovers dread togetherness… shit is the optimum word.

Lie awake and think of his name…which one? Swarming insects, babies, and apples in the pink shower dwell on communism. Give me yoghurt and boobs blue raven, it was a crush, a terrible crush. Smile, sober, drunk, vodka, wine, kiss me… pink hair. The ambient conductor has no money. Walking through doors, gates, fences. The violence braces me…grey bird pink fish. The bell jar explains thoughts of love, the government, and stripy aeroplane crashes. Ticklish Jews blow bubbles at the concert, shining sugar fish, grey bird, pink fish. Medieval feminism cocktails… People manic crying sleepy, manic crying sleepy. Sex and crazy women flutter around the edges of my consciousness.

You don’t know me, but you judge me. A pink Sunday afternoon awaits me and an uphill walk. An exchange of smiles and forged relationships at forgotten parties. I don’t know what I’m saying. Grey bird. Pink fish.