The Art of Resilience: An Introduction to the blog.
There seems to be no easy way to do this, so I'm just going to start typing and see where it goes: rather like my painting process and probably my approach to life in general. As yet, I have no clear picture of what this blog will be, but I hope that it will involve contributions from others, not solely written by me.
The choice of the word "Resilience" is an interesting one and I'm not totally convinced it's perfect, but it was the word that felt the most appropriate when I looked back at the series of landscapes I was/have been working on. Over the years, I've occasionally been asked to visualise my illness in some way and two images have dominated: Mountains and trees. Just one tree, in fact - an old, gnarled, wind-swept oak tree, always standing alone on exposed ground, battered by a life-time of storms, but firmly rooted. That isn't to suggest that I feel strong like the tree, but that I hope the thought of it will impart some of its fortitude to me. I once wrote:
Moulded into the dank earth: fingers moss deep, senses giddy with damp wood and time-trapped ancient bogland;
The song of the stream weaving weightlessly through sound-soaked air;
The cracking of creeping frost crusting over curled leaves;
Old and bone-bare as the rock; ground down, not sculpted; yet unmoved.
The roots of the ancient oak, driven deep. Branches wind-whipped and bowed; yet never broken.
Depression and anxiety wear you away. They can leave you feeling like a hollowed-out shell, completely bare and exposed. I see my series of paintings as representations of this: the juxtaposition of something that is both weathered and scarred, yet still with a tangible solidity. Simultaneously, the sheer enormity of the landscape and oceans is another thread running through it. For me, it has always been a place that has predominantly felt safe and comforting: somewhere I would run to and hide in as a child, and run through as an adult. Yet it can also be terrifying. Being caught, once, by a sudden storm coming off the sea on the West coast of Norway, whilst running across a mountain plateau, I had a fairly brutal reminder of this. All visibility was lost and the trail down became transformed within minutes into a raging torrent of water. I did eventually manage to retrace my steps to the cairn and then pick my way off the mountain, but it was many weeks before I had the courage to get back up there.
So where am I going with this? I think most of us are aware of the mental health benefits of creativity, however since I began painting this year and became involved in the art community on social media, it's become something I'm increasingly fascinated by. Various collaborations have arisen from this and are being formed into concrete ideas, two of which will hopefully involve publishing something eventually. And the things that have connected us are creativity and mental (ill)health - predominately trauma and loss - and the search for ways in which to express our experiences through art, photography and/or writing. I hope to use this blog to discuss these projects and the ideas or realisations that emerge from them. I also hope that others might contribute articles in a similar vein, if possible.