“I didn’t want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that’s really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare.” (Vizzini, 2006)
This series of work is heavily influenced by my ongoing battles with mental health issues. The pieces are a combination of pen drawings and painted skulls. The vibrancy of the skulls is to demonstrate the positive exterior one has to emit in order to convince people that everything is ‘OK’. The self portraits portray the angst and heartache which is hidden by the exterior. The pieces aim to convey the struggle encountered on a daily basis, particularly in the workplace. As a professional, I have discovered that mental health is still a taboo subject in some circumstances and not always accepted as a genuine illness.
This work started during a personal battle with depression that has engulfed both my personal and professional life. Stemming from emotional abuse, I started to paint skulls to pacify my anger and aggression. Mortality is ever present, as is the fragility of life. I am not saying that every single waking moment is spent considering suicide, in my case the opposite prevails. You want to survive. During a manic phase you are bombarded with ideas, spurts of creativity which overwhelm and are almost never even attempted. The skulls alone did not capture the deeper feelings of despair and grief. I never intended for this series to be so personal, but I went along with it as a form of therapy. The work is intended to assist people in understanding the complexity of depression and anxiety, it is not a clear cut case of a person being a ‘little bit sad’.
The pieces are completed in layers, painting combined with a simple pen drawing and then worked upon repeatedly. The layers could represent the layers of mental health, each layer worked on during a different mood. I want the viewer to immerse themselves in the work and contemplate life and death from their own unique perspective. My intention is to highlight the complexity of manic depression and make people aware that although it can be incapacitating at times, with the right care and empathy sufferers can also be highly functioning members of society.
Vizzini, N. (2006) It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Miramax Books/Hyperion Books For Children, ©2006.