Illness begins with “I”
Illness begins with “I” is about visualising the experience of illness through a creative act of witness – the ‘art of witness’. These are ‘portraits’ of the individual experience of levels of ‘dis-ease’ that can become so much a part of being itself that the discomfort is rarely contained within physical, mental or even spiritual boundaries. The experience can be chronic or acute, it can traverse a scale from devastation to mild irritation, but most importantly it is uniquely subjective, allied irrevocably to Self. This exhibition seeks to reinstate the voice of the individual caught between Kingdoms. Illness begins with ‘I’.
Scroll down for images of the opening night and the exhibition in situ, followed by the works and the accompanying texts that made up the exhibition at The Broadway Drawing school Gallery, 24th Oct. – 2nd Nov. 2014
MANY OF THE FOLLOWING WORKS ARE FOR SALE AND A PERCENTAGE OF ALL PROCEEDS GOES TO FUND THE WORK OF THE DRAWING WOMEN’S CANCER PROJECT. PLEASE CONTACT ME TO DISCUSS DETAILS.
It has been a challenging, revealing, and in many ways an inspiring experience to find myself in heartland between academic detachment and total immersion in human experience, and I have discovered new ways of understanding my practice and its import in areas that extend beyond philosophical theorising in order to address not just the context but the actual realities of existence.
I have for a long time been committed to finding ways to actually ‘practice’ from the basis of Deleuzean theory, rather than to simply engage with and respond to it, and in this work I believe that I am as close as I have ever been to doing so.
Deleuze is insistent as he tells us that people are made up of very varied lines; indeed there is a whole ‘geography’ in people.
Goethe implored us to,
Trusteth the delicate leaves, feebly beginning to shoot.
Simply slumber’d the force in the seed; a germ of the future.
Through verbalising and reflecting on process I have learned to ‘stammer’ in the Deleuzean ‘vital’ sense of being a foreigner in my own language, and within the perpetuity of process that is characterised in the stammering, the and…and…and… I try to embrace a creative multilingualism, the interpenetrative relation between visual and conventional language that both derives from and creates in turn the fundamental narrative by which we exist both as individuals in our own world and in relation to the ‘Other’.
If we observe all forms, especially the organic forms, we find that nothing is permanent, nothing is at rest, nothing concluded, but, on the contrary, that all is in continuous fluctuating movement.
My work is, by and large, what we might call figurative but it is representative at a far deeper level than is assumed in the way that the term figurative is typically recognised and understood. Where the work makes intuition tangible, both as an inevitable factor of production, and as a demand, even a requirement, of interpretation, it embodies, elicits and precipitates a form of ‘knowledge’ that consists of both cognition and sensation. This is knowledge, or understanding, born of experimentation over interpretation, and it is as profound as the emotion and experience the work aims to represent.
‘considering my actual state, it is a little bit as if I were already gone’.
A friend was recently diagnosed with cancer. A good friend. An old friend. But even if she were no friend at all, even if she were a stranger to me, it is yet a tragedy, a private individual tragedy that becomes a part of a wider human tragedy that is cancer.
It sometimes seems as though the artist, and the philosopher in particular, is only a chance in his time…nature, which never makes a leap, has made its one leap in creating them, and a leap for joy moreover, for nature then feels that for the first time it has reached its goal – where it realizes that it has to unlearn having goals and that it has played the game of life and becoming with too high stakes.
Follow the plants: you start by delimiting a first line consisting of circles of convergence around successive singularities; then you see whether inside that line new circles of convergence establish themselves…
As an artist with a background in philosophy and a passion for exploring what Heidegger would call dasein, our being-in-the-world, my involvement with cancer has deepened in recent months through a research project that has taken me to a particular part of the world that Sontag describes as the ‘kingdom of the sick’. Women suffering gynaecological cancer, citizens of this kingdom, have welcomed me as a kindred soul, even though I live, without pain, in the ‘kingdom of the well’. They understand, as does Sontag, that in fact we all hold ‘dual citizenship’ and I, having listened to and immersed myself in their stories, understand that we all have a stake in both kingdoms, and only time, fortune and biomedical intervention allows us to mediate between the one and the other.
My deepest gratitude too all those involved in the Drawing Women’s Cancer project
As an artist and a writer, I question the ‘logic of sensation’; a logic that philosopher Gilles Deleuze, in familiar and equally paradoxical fashion, himself acknowledges is irrational. Beyond logic then, I explore and experiment beyond the irrational, so far perhaps that the irrational begins to be rational again. Logic in what I do is thus superseded by artistic nuance, and where logical progression is inevitably intersected by the vagaries of practice and interrelations between rational and irrational thought, feeling and action, I ‘feel my way’ when I am making art, and I exist in a world where I am sometimes misunderstood, but, like Corbousier’s acrobat, I dance on.
An acrobat is no puppet
He devotes his life to activities
in which, in perpetual danger of death
he performs extraordinary movements
of infinite difficulty, with the disciplined
exactitude and precision…free
to break his neck and his bones
and be crushed.
Nobody asks him to do this
Nobody owes him any thanks
He lives in an extraordinary world, of the acrobat
This page is at the time of writing (September 2014) a work in progress. It is to become the home of the art exhibition Illness begins with “I” (Oct. 24th – Nov. 2nd, 2014 at The Broadway Drawing school Gallery, Cardiff). Here you will find a gallery of the work along with notes, quotes and narratives that relate to the theme of the show as a whole.
We do not turn from the depiction as such …but from a depiction that exemplifies unbearable suffering …a mode of representation that involves the setting forth of the sufferer’s situation. Such pictures do not refer away to their significant object (pain) but are presentational in their standing as exemplars of this condition. These pictures are with the abject so that observer become witness to the abjection of the other.
It is not the lack of health that is abhorrent, nor even the marks of disease in themselves, but the appearance of abjection, even in the metonymic form, as wound, as death inducing.
Alan Radley, (2009) Works of Illness: Narrative Picturing and the Social Response to serious Illness, Inkerman Press
To find oneself in Sontag’s Kingdom of the Sick is to experience the ‘abject’, the impossible object that remains still a part of the subject, and which Grosz tell us signals the precarious grasp that the subject has over its identity and bodily boundaries. To find oneself in the Kingdom of the Sick is to lose sight of oneself in the Kingdom of the Well, and to suffer in a world where the final abjection is to be found in Kristeva’s phenomenon of ‘death infecting life’. Medicine can define the abject. It can provide, sometimes, a passage back into the Kingdom of the Well. But as the person behind the diagnosis becomes a patient, individuality and the voice of suffering is often lost in the transformation.
Illness is not a metaphor… the most truthful way of regarding illness – and the healthiest way of being ill – is one most purified of, most resistant to, metaphoric thinking… Yet it is hardly possible to take up ones residence in the Kingdom of the ill unprejudiced by the lurid metaphors with which it has been landscaped. Susan Sontag, Illness as a Metaphor