After the last formative assessment in which I did a series of lino prints of my nan fading away, I decided that I wanted to continue in trying to portray the slow loss of her identity with her development into Alzheimer’s disease. It has been a struggle for me throughout the year to represent the internal breakdown in a physical format; so by creating these two jumbled portraits, I’ve tried to be both reflective of this internal breakdown of identity as well as the breakdown into a person physically unrecognisable.
I drew two images of my Nan from frames of videos taken of her, and drew them photo-accurately. I decided to use accuracy as I wanted the progression of my final pieces to also be a reflection of my Nan pre-Alzheimer’s, in which she had a clear identity, into an unrecognisable arrangement of facial features in which her identity is lost.
Learning from my first ripped up portrait, although I liked its concept, I didn’t like how the pieces didn’t fit into each other. Consequently I decided to use triangles that fit into a rhombus shape, contained within the portrait. Keeping the jumbling of the face within the portrait deeper connected to the concept of outside/inside and how Alzheimer’s in contained within the mind. I also found, and people commented, that keeping within the outer edges of the drawing messed with the viewer’s own mind as you don’t know where to look. I thought this was an interesting idea that could be further developed if I were to continue looking into portraying Alzheimer’s.
I chose to augment my drawings and project videos over the top using the Aurasma app that I learned how to use in the pinhole photography workshop. I linked the drawings to the videos of my nan that the frames for drawing were taken from. Connecting my drawings to the videos of my Nan talking strengthens the loss of identity and to some level, sanity, highlighting the effects of Alzheimer’s. It puts my drawings into context, as without, I think it would be unclear as to their purpose.
I would like to carry on my exploration into Alzheimer’s and my portrayal of it but would consider digitalising my pieces, and having the cut up sections of my Nan’s face move around to create ever-changing arrangements. I think this would potentially work better at portraying the internal breakdown of identity as there is never a secure image.
Looking at artist Bobby Baker has had a profound influence on my pill packet paintings. Just as Baker documented her mental health issues and experiences throughout her time in hospitals and institutes, I wanted to document my experiences, side effects and emotions on Roaccutane, a skin medication with potentially serious mental side effects.
I found throughout the year that documenting my emotions and the physical effects Roaccutane had on me was comforting and therapeutic, helping me to separate my real emotions from what was caused by the medication. It was quite scary to actually realise the depressive effects of Roaccutane and at times it has been a real struggle to carry on my course of pills.
I decided I wanted to physically link my experiences to the object that was causing them, so decided to paint just a few of my emotions onto the Roaccutane pill packets using acrylic paints. I painted six packets, mixing between the physical and mental effects of the medication. I painted the packets before taking the medication and slowly ripped them open when I needed the medication. This has distorted the original images, hiding multiple areas.
I decided to paint a portrait of one of my lows on Roaccutane both physically and mentally. For me this is my most successful painting as it most accurately captures my emotions from the time. It is a complete contrast to how I normally portray myself.
This painting was more abstract in which I let my emotions run loose and painted whatever I felt like painting. Whilst painting this I was very irritable so the paint has been applied thick and pulled back in areas.
I painted this to symbolise my isolation I felt, the background fades from light at the edges to black in the middle. I was hoping to be able to blend my self portrait into the background to create the idea of me disappearing but I don’t think that was particularly successful.
This painting is the most physical, depicting my increased dose in medication. As well as this I have attempted to illustrate the effect roaccutane has had on my lips, which are now constantly cracked and bleeding.
Roaccutane works by stopping oil production in your body. In this painting I attempted to show how frustrating my dry skin is and my unconscious scratching due to it.
My final painting was also subjective, painted when I was experiencing feelings of depression. I created this painting by blowing watered down acrylic paint around the pill packet surface with a straw.
I decided to frame the packets because they are so small I think they would have gotten lost in the wall without. Also the frames for me, are conceptually trapping my experiences in the moment and leaving them in the past where they belong.
Overall I think my collection of paintings are personally successful in portraying some of the emotions and side effects I’m currently experiencing. Just like Bobby Baker’s Diary Drawings, they are very personal to my experiences. If I were to further this work I would consider having a lot more paintings in the hope to paint enough to cover an entire wall.
Pill packets before being ripped:
A prominent theme that has occurred throughout my work is the idea of collections. Although I didn’t initially mean for this to happen in my final pieces, the use of collections is a concept that I really like to use. I like having several pieces of work that fit together to form a stronger meaning, and in the case of my ‘Life on Roaccutane’ subject piece and ‘Alzheimer’s Disease Series 2’ field piece, tell a continuous story.
In the Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, September material project I created a large span of screen printing and cyanotypes that I divided down into categories and sorted into different arrangements. I displayed each collection in different ways. Some were put up on the wall, others sat in handmade envelopes and some were hand-bound into books. However all linked together to create one large collection of prints.
It is clear that my heavy use of collections in Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, September that I found successful and was really pleased with, had a significant impact on my final pieces as each consist of 2 or more pieces of work.
Finished Drawing 1:
Finished Drawing 2:
These are my finished drawings before I cut them up to create my final pieces. I decided to draw them completely photo-accurately as to increase the loss in when I cut them up. The creation and slow destruction of them was almost reflective of my Nan’s slow mental decay with her progression into Alzheimer’s, and there was a sense of loss in them for me in losing something precise into the jumbling of facial features.
Bobby Baker was extremely influential for my ‘Life on Roaccutane’ paintings as of the focus of both our works on mentality.
Bobby Baker did a series of 711 paintings documenting her mental health and experiences in hospitals and psychiatric wards. Her paintings became a way for her to express her thoughts and emotions which is a concept that has been really influential for my work, as my paintings are solely focused on my thoughts and feelings experienced on Roaccutane. Although my side effects are completely caused by my medication and are in no way as severe as Baker’s mental health issues, both stand as personal accounts documenting our thoughts and emotions in the present. I like the idea of creating a continuing narrative similar to Baker on my experiences so may continue to make even more paintings if I experience any new side effects.
There is a naive quality in Baker’s work that I love so much. It is less about the aesthetic value and more about the personal connection to the paintings. Originally Baker’s paintings were not intended to be seen by the public leading to an honesty in her work that I tried to translate into some of my portraits, however I struggled with this and don’t think I managed to do so completely successfully. The colours Baker uses are extremely passionate and resonate well in what she is portraying. I think this use of colour is key as well for me in some of my paintings as certain colours associated with different emotions (such as black blues and greys for depression) can tell the viewer more about my experiences than some of the portraits.
I really liked the results of my practice paintings on paper so decided to continue this idea forward, but instead painted straight onto my roaccutane pill packets. I trialled a painting onto a paracetamol packet of my lips. I really liked this effect as it physically linked my side effects to the pills, so I went on and did an abstracted painting on one of my roaccutane packets.