It was July 20th 2014 when I knew that something in my body wasn’t right. My hands and feet were painful. Walking barefoot hurt and I couldn’t pick up the kettle one handed, just little things, but they gave me a sense of foreboding. My good health slipped away very quickly, I was undiagnosed for 6 months, and in December 2014 I was admitted into hospital and diagnosed with Lupus.
By that autumn I had stopped painting along with dancing, walking, eating, making love, and all the other things that make life worth living. The auto immune disorder can attack almost every area of your body, in my case it concentrated in my joints so in a short period of time I had become house bound, I was terrified. Even sleep was painful, waking myself up, and my husband, as I screamed out in agony. I lost hope of regaining my life as it was.
Thankfully since my stay in hospital modern medicine and holistic wisdom is dealing with the symptoms so I am able to live life more fully.
This new body of work is a reflection of this journey. It’s a departure from my previous work, and it is very exciting.
I started doing the watercolours when I was still in the early stages of recovery, just as a nice free form playful expression. I had no expectation that it would lead me to anywhere meaningful. I think it reactivated my creative brain. I had been craving a change in expression for quite a few years but with deadlines and expectations of galleries I just kept plugging away, unable to let myself off the hook and have a break. Although getting sick was not my ideal way of making that space, it is an unexpected outcome.
I didn’t paint for 12 months, and I’ve had to struggle with physical and physcological challenges from having such a big break from my studio, painting and my work. I felt knocked off my perch, but thankfully I didn’t just step back into safe patterns of picture making. I let myself re address those known pathways of working and put into practice a new approach. Where as before I would lay the canvas flat and pour and dribble colours creating an intricate web to pull out my imagery. Now I come to the canvas with an idea of composition, then build colours in soft glazes, putting in detail and working up the vibrancy in layers. I think that by removing the safety net of pouring layers I am creating work that is more exposed and vulnerable which is an important part of what I want to convey. The images are more spacious and pared back.
The very first paintings I did were solely made up of triangles, I started simply using them to play with colour and composition, but with time I have connected so much symbolism to this shape and see it as a building block from which my symbolic vocabulary has grown. A triangle can refer to everything from the molecular to the vast. I began to create a language through which I could explore and communicate my experience. I also introduced the bird, and put the bird inside the triangle as a symbol for entrapment, the feeling of restriction brought on by this disease. I have since added trees and foliage, again describing the feeling of containment. . I have always wanted to tell a story but I am scared of what I might unknowingly reveal of myself. I think the intensity of my recent experiences have pushed me out there into my work as I have never dared before. These pared back images speak to me of great joy, and I feel like I am creating work that presents a combination of vulnerability and bravery.