I have been working for the last few weeks to prepare for the degree show. There were prints to mount, glass to replace in the frames, working on the last painting and battling with the hot weather that started to play tricks on the wet paper, which meant more paper to stretch for it to be ready for the big day.
We had three days to prepare the exhibition and take decisions, and, despite some last minute changes and the weather being even hotter, we made it.
The exhibition opened on 25 May. I think we were all relieved that the hard work was over.
About my work in the exhibition
For the past four years, my work has focused on mental illness, and more specifically schizophrenia, after the loss of somebody very close to me who suffered from it. The heart of the work attempts to describe the negative symptoms of the illness:
“Negative symptoms of schizophrenia are so called because they describe thoughts or behaviour that the person used to have before they became ill but now no longer have or have to a lesser extent and so have been lost or taken away from their psyche. It describes normal aspects of the person’s behaviour that they no longer have. Negative symptoms can include lethargy and apathy. […]
Anhedonia (one of eight negative symptoms):
This describes an inability to experience pleasure. People with schizophrenia who experience this often describe life as being grey or empty, devoid of the normal emotional ups and downs that we all take for granted. Others have described it as feeling empty or hollow.” (1)
I chose to represent this particular aspect of the condition by portraying images of cold, still, deserted and atmospheric landscapes, mainly in black and white. Some of the images were taken by the ill person, others by myself, and I interpreted this material through the media of painting, printing and photography. My practice expresses my thoughts, intuition, experience and research into the subject and is a representation of what lives within and is never seen.
Young Minds, Mind and Rethink Mental Illness are the three main organisations I have worked with in the past. Their work has been a great resource and inspiration, adding to my personal knowledge of the subject.
Much of the pictorial material in my recent work is drawn from photographs, and in this way takes inspiration from the works of the painters Peter Doig, especially his 1990s work at the time of Swamped, when his work was at its most eerie and gloomy; Gerhard Richter, for his landscapes made in the late 1960s and the 15 pictures that formed the Baader-Meinhoff project in 1988; and Luc Tuymans, for his monochromatic representational scenes (more than his portraits), often inspired by photographs and films. On a conceptual level, Mary Kelly’s work Post-Partum (1973-79), which is about femininity and motherhood, recording the progress of her child, was a great inspiration to my own work.
(1) (LIVING WITH SCHIZOPHRENIA, 2017. Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia: Understanding Them [WWW] https://www.livingwithschizophreniauk.org/advice-sheets/negative-symptoms-understanding/)
The exhibition remains open 11 am to 5 pm until Saturday 3 June.
Photos © Kerry Swatridge, Alice Swatridge and Jess Hill