I spend so much time in bed because of the debility I suffer as a result of mesh complications. It can lead to feelings of isolation and at times, despair. In the last few years I have been working on my resistance and resilience in a bid to get some quality of life back.
Instead of mourning all the things I can no longer do because of mesh, I reframed the question; “What can I do? How can I find ways of getting back to things that feed my soul and my creative spirit?”
Okay, so that’s two questions. But it was a eureka moment, and I have been finding my way back to myself slowly ever since. I was an artist first and foremost before I entered a career as a lecturer in Art & Design. Working full time, my personal practice faded into the background. I became interested in Art Theory and Visual Culture when I was studying for my degree at Bradford college many moons ago. I went on to do an MA in Film Theory, which led me into the world of teaching Art & Design Theory and History. My creative energy went into my writing and supporting students in the course of their own art degrees. It was a job I loved, but I had to retire on grounds of ill health in 2013 at the age of forty. It was a devastating and dark time for me, as I had to accept I would never be able to further my career as a lecturer. I mourned my past life for a long time.
Living in the past is never a healthy thing. It is not the present or the future, and those are the things that I needed to shift my focus towards in order to move on with my life in a meaningful way.
You would never realise until it happens to you, that being housebound and bedbound isn’t the end of having a productive life. Some of my artist heroes made much of their work in similar circumstances. Frida Kahlo and Matisse have long been favourites of mine, and I drew strength from knowing that they could still be artists, still be themselves, despite their disability and limitations. Pain and suffering as tools to developing creativity are not new to artists.
I started working with polypropylene rope as a source material last year. This is the same material mesh medical devices are made from. I wanted to renegotiate my relationship to this material, to manipulate it through deconstruction and working intuitively with it to create visual pieces
Each session spent deconstructing the rope was done during periods of bed rest. Turning my pain into power has been a wonderful healing tool. If I am busy with my hands, my mental health improves. Each session was guided by my intuition, my emotions and thoughts of what this polypropylene had done to me as a person. I felt the catharsis of the sessions was similar to meditation, another tool I use daily to help me deal with pain and an essential self-care tool. This is where I began. I stripped the rope back to single threads, some of which I then sculpted into blue balls (shown in the photograph below. This was the beginning of my new creative venture.
There are other artists who I will talk about as I develop my work and this blog. Louise Bourgeois has been an especially important artist to me for as long as I can remember. Her work is powerful and haunting. She has inspired me to be brave in telling my story through the things I make.
“To Unravel a Torment you must begin somewhere.”
My Creative Resistance started here.