Give My Head Peace
A journey through an artist’s intermittently conflicted life
'the whole of my life is my artist's residency; my children, the things that happened to me, the landscapes I've looked at - nothing of it is to be wasted or tossed aside as unimportant or valueless'
We are all at war every day. Sometimes this is on the level of microbiology as our bodies rage vengeful cancerous cells or wayward dopamine darts psychotic sketches across our brains. Sometimes it’s on the great global stage as folks in fashionable khaki dance around us twirling guns and explosives.
On whatever level we experience this push and pull of powerful forces, it is painful yet growth inducing; sometimes drawing out courage we never knew we had, but too often weakening us until we fall into ill health or worst of all - the welcoming bed of suicide.
This project involves an exploration of conflict in the life of humans and how nature supports us and sustains us through this ceaseless process. Growing up in the Troubles of Northern Ireland and plagued with my own mental health difficulties, I survived mainly by trusting in the majestic beauty that surrounded me on the North Atlantic coastline; now a UNESCO world heritage site. Can the awe of nature have a protective influence? And can we somehow capture this nurturing and watchful phenomenon in visual art?
A regular expression in the area was ‘You’ll end up in Gransha’; a local psychiatric hospital. This helpful advice was proffered at the appearance of anything that was in any way deviant from the incredibly narrow idea of ‘normal’, which could include being deemed as too creative or sensitive – rather damning for someone who would end up as an artist.
Mental health is still centre stage today, with a report published in The Independent citing that Northern Ireland is facing a suicide epidemic:
‘Another disconcerting statistic shows that more people in Northern Ireland have died by taking their own lives since the signing of the agreement than from violence during the Troubles.’
Can a deeper connection with nature through the conduit of art be a harmonising influence in a deeply conflicted world?