How are we able to understand when we are in a stable state of consciousness?
How can medication affect our mental state of mind?
These questions are used to explore concepts relating to the idea of altered states of consciousness, traumatic memories and the effect of medication on the mind. The context for my interest in these subjects stems from a personal experience with psychosis.
Freud’s theories of the unconscious forms a basis for interpreting past experiences and expressing them. His writings on distorted memories, repression and Nachtraglichkeit(deferred action) have all been highly influential to my work. Mark-making acts as a very direct and instant method of transferring and conveying my reaction to the recollection of traumatic memories. Intrusive thoughts about these memories often appear on the surface of the raw material in the form of writing but are distorted, covered up and made illegible. This brings into question as to why my reaction is to cover, hide and erase?
The addition of medicine into the work explores the contrast between the idea of a substance being able to control unstable mindset, and the reality of being on the medication. This is represented through the relationship of the gestural and graphic marks. The gestural marks being erratic and unpredictable whilst the graphic printing adding consistency and stability; both trying to coexist. The graphic patterns and bright colours found from the commercial boxes of the anti-depressant Sertraline became a key motif. The repetition involved in the daily consumption and also the industrial production of the pills and boxes is represented through my repeated use of screen printing and hand embroidery. Screen printing allows for the motif to be replicated and repeatedly produced whilst the hand embroidery reflects the repetitive and mundane daily routine of consuming the pill.
The addition of the oil stains within the work references the figurative ‘stain’ left behind from medicine; the potentially very negative side effects. The idea that the introduction of the pill to the user should bring stability allows for the stain to be embellished and appear more appealing. The oil adds layers and depth to the surface whilst still maintaining many of the original qualities of the canvas. But this ever-present and irremovable oil stain presents to the viewer the concept and an understanding of the long-lasting impact which medication can have on a person.