Acrylic and Charcoal on Canvas, 70 x 100cm
Going through treatment for breast cancer was like going through a sort of winter. Winter according to the stories of the divine hag, the Cailleach, begins at Samhain, when the veil between this world and the other world is at its thinnest. The many stories about this seasonal deity with her affinity for storm and tempest, and her transformations at spring found me when I needed tales, images and symbols that were strong enough to hold me through diagnosis, treatment and recovery of hope.
The Cailleach is an encounter with death: Her one-eyed, red-toothed, ancient blueback face—in the Scottish tales—was a strange solace, and her natural laws of seasonal rest and growth were echoed in the deep winter of my body induced by the medicine I was so lucky to receive. She is a shapeshifter: her cold winter retreat a fecund darkness that sheltered the seeds of the first flowers of spring, which tend to be golden, to be yellow. Masked as her, I painted a self-portrait, cautiously aware that daring to stand behind her image was a wild risk.
‘Cailleach’ means ‘veiled one’: draping the scarred weathered landscape of my chest through which life was beating out, felt like a sacred blessing and affirmation of my body’s adaptability and affinity with the earth over which the Cailleach draws her cloak.
I am most compelled by nature, and humans as nature. I am influenced by a broad and eclectic range of thinkers and artists. Inter-relationships, co-creativity and mutual reciprocity, those borders between people and/or places, between human and microbiome, tree and mycelium and the psychoanalytic spaces of intersubjectivity fascinate me. I suspect these liminal spaces are somehow maternal in nature and have a kind of transformative energetics that we have only begun to name and see. These are what I want to find when I make art, but they are perhaps not always what I find.
I feel art has an urgent role to play in bringing the over-looked emotional labour of cradling and care into the consciousness of a culture that has privileged individualism and illusory independence to the point of climate crisis and global social injustice. I am motivated by exploring inter-generational trauma, loss, division, environmental inter-connectedness alongside the ability to self-heal, journey to some integration/wholeness by trusting in the wildish nature of the earth/body and making visible the maternal structures of ecosystems.