Category Archives: Dec ’15

Testing My Boundaries


We have just started this project, requiring us to TEST THE BOUNDARIES – to, in effect, push ourselves out of whatever comfort zone we have embedded ourselves in and to find new ways, new audiences, new spaces: uncharted territory! We have to put our work in places that might be uncomfortable for us. It should be a process in which we are prepared to fail, and for most if not all of us, that in itself is a test.

Les Bicknell introduced us to the project and appeared so enthusiastic about it that it was hard not to be encouraged by his positivity. He reminded us that we have a huge resource in the people we know, the connections we can make via friends, family, colleagues and our extended networks. Les then asked us to think about how we would describe our practice in three words and then to consider what those words connect to and where we might see work like this. For example, work which is involved with how we see the world might be very suitable in an opticians!

We were encouraged to think about how the format of the work might change: scale, materials, projection, publishing, magazines, newspapers, websites etc

For obvious reasons, my connection with education and schools makes that far too easy a resource to tap into, although one thought which occurred to me during this lecture was that I have never collaborated with Design Technology who have some state of the art machinery including laser cutters and 3D printers. Now this would take me out of my comfort zone.

Les also encouraged us to think about what we have to offer; to negotiate what we could bring in terms of working with clients and in terms of fun, gameplay, lateral thinking etc. He asked us to think about what we have seen and been moved by or entertained by in the past and to make links with everyone. Split into two groups for additional involvement in giving each other feedback and ideas, we will be presenting our projects in March and have a few months to come up with how we will be testing ourselves by pushing our own boundaries. For me, this is always about taking the risk of being considered unprofessional: by exhibiting work which people question the validity or quality of. It is also about moving outside and interacting with people; away from the relative safety net of a gallery and an audience who will approve of even the most testing abstraction and conceptualism. Against the backdrop of reality, but also with some potential to infiltrate exhibition spaces, I (the artist) am exposed and everything is at its most ‘raw’.

This works beyond the canvas as well and I am keen to make a series of works which can be extended from the frame onto the wall – escaping, running away from the ‘prison’ of the frame, rushing for freedom up the walls. This could invite collaboration and appear anarchic and dangerous. It would need the right kind of office spaces and management who would welcome something unique and exciting.

This project will definitely be exciting!


Thoughts on Mental Health and Art


Recently I have been thinking a great deal about where my work comes from: both the actual imagery/product, and the desire to make. It is a huge generalisation to say that Art is therapeutic, despite there being scientific evidence to confirm that even looking at Art creates a response in the brain which is associated with positive emotions. One article I read in the Telegraph reported that a scientific study revealed that looking at works of art created the same brain response as being in love. It follows therefore, that those who become accustomed to creating their own palette of positivity would be constantly drawn to it, and inclined to repeat elements which increase the blood flow to the medial orbitofrontal cortex – the part of the brain associated with pleasure and desire. This has been measured using MRI scans.


Above are examples of paintings I have been working on for some time, and decided to try to resolve last weekend. I worked with a limited palette so that the figures would be subject to some degree of being concealed. Interesting, I thought, that I am concealing their faces instead of painting them clothed. But then there is a vulnerability and question mark over their identity; the body is yours and mine and belonging to anyone else who wishes to associate with it, even in simple terms such as ‘human’ or ‘flesh’. It also links back to my work last year when I was exploring painting on a human canvas. The intimacy of flesh is still there, without the intimacy of eye contact or expression. It can therefore be mournful or joyous. It can express whatever the viewer projects into it.

During a recent meeting of my MA group, students were presenting their work. I was listening to everything that was said and was writing down any words that stood out. The result is a collection of terms, works and thoughts (my own and those of my cohort) from this session. I enjoy writing and I wonder about the connection between the terms that stood out for me. Storytelling, perception, ‘poetry of space’….. the words that clung to my imagination may be very different to those that others would have chosen. Perhaps they say something about my background, experiences or preferences. Perhaps they are just ‘nice’ words! I’m certainly not about to start psychoanalysing myself in terms of these words, but perhaps there needs to be more psychoanalysis during the activity of painting – and this is what is interesting me at the moment: the liberation of painting and the conflicting sense of needing to work in a way which is suitable, palatable and professional.

I have so many fascinating resources: books, journals, people. The conversation about mental health and art; flow and psychosis, work as self-reference, abstract portrait or emotional gesture and the health impact of both creating and looking at Art. It is certainly no surprise that hospitals such as Chelsea & Westminster and Barts have large art collections and consider the work important to the most ‘healing‘ environment that patients, visitors and staff can encounter.


This is a small detail from a page of notes I wrote whilst having a Masters tutorial with artists Hayley Lock. By highlighting the words ‘lose the moral responsibility’ I was also unlocking the possibilities of working in a way which would focus on exactly what I wanted to see or feel, selfishly absorbed in my own emotions and less so in any sense of wanting to ‘heal the world’. I wonder how much of a battle that is for artists in general, but certainly as a female artist I have grown up feeling that I needed to REACT and keep pushing for equality through my work and words. And then we drift further from what is at the heart of creativity, and into what will spread a message – advertising, promotion, propaganda etc

So this marks the start of a project exploring mental health – my own, yours, his, hers, ours. How and why creating Art is all I want to do – an obsession and a compulsion – a true love.