Materials: paper, card, paint, ink, felt tip, pencil, inkjet prints, box frames 70cm x 56cm
Curated by Oliver Sumner. Artists: Sovay Berriman, Ilana Halperin, Iz Öztat, Lindsay Seers, and Michelle Williams Gamaker
Almost twenty years ago, a set of events unfolded which I could believe are the origin of these drawings/paintings. A talented art student whom I taught was diagnosed with the condition of schizophrenia; then I had by chance discovered a book, "Lenz" by Georg Büchner, on a shelf in a house I was temporarily staying in. (The novella is based on a diary and was an early account of the subjectivity and phenomenal experience of psychosis); and finally I was introduced to an eminent cognitive neuroscientist, Chris Frith, who has worked consistently and extensively in investigating the condition of schizophrenia. What followed was an interest in the idea that there is a unique shift in perception that arises in the case of psychosis, which causes substantial changes in perception. I believe that the materialisation of this is epitomised in the work of Richard Dadd.
The condition of schizophrenia itself has been considered an organic brain disease rather than being psychologically driven. However, it seems evident that traumatic circumstances in early life can play a significant factor in the presentation of the condition. I am interested in studies of colonial incursions (particularly affected second generations of families , indicating an embodiment of trauma across generations).
Although the flattening off of the perceptual field and also the lack of hierarchical distinctions related to perception in the state of psychosis in drawings and paintings is often associated with the genre of "outsider artists", I am not interested in this categorisation of outsider artist per se – I am interested in works that seem possibly to show this unique form of perception that is not in itself an "artistic conceit". The act of painting is driven in this case by a desire to depict a reality about experiences that are related to an hallucinatory real. Perhaps that reality is a social/political real that locates one of its triggers in global historical narratives related to slavery and immigration.
I have been engaged in a drawing exchange with several artists over the past two years. These three works I have presented are a letter to individuals whom I know only through posting drawings to them. I do not want to disclose any more information on the people or how we became connected. Our 'corroboration is still in process is not yet settled. (Versions of these works will go into their possession.)
Through my association with neuroscientists such as Chris Frith and Anil Seth, I have reconsidered my idea of consciousness as a unified state and now understand it as fluctuating and discontinuous, with the brain formulating plausible narratives to generate a sense of continuity to a heterogeneous and chaotic set of sensory phenomenon. The story that I put forward in the opening paragraph for the origination of these works is therefore in itself is a simplification of what is possibly an a-causal set of events. Yet the story of origination seems plausible.
In exchanging drawings with these three artists I have wanted to try to understand their visual language – to speak to them in their language with my inadequate novice's voice, which attempts to assimilate the complexity of their thought without the breadth of their vocabulary, gained through years of work.
Where do we draw and paint from but from the soup of history? As in all my work I am interested in the specifics of an individual’s relationship to the general idea that is History, believing that the one can stand for the many. I have addressed these works as an homage to these individuals – a hybrid of how much others exist in each of us and make evident a conscious act of influence rather than an unconscious assimilation.
There is a booklet that goes with the works: