Pain Portraits by Art by a Vampire
I graduated from Lancaster University in the summer of 2022 and I have been thoroughly enjoying the GTCxLICA Launch Pad! By having the opportunity to continue my practice in a site-specific and community-based environment, I have been able to develop my artistic language further and understand more about what I want my art to achieve.
Over the last few months, I have been able to explore the materiality of Morecambe Bay and create a visual discussion of experiencing pain through items I have found. Through collecting shells, interesting rocks, and sea-glass, I have created four framed pieces (see below) that represent different types of pain I have experienced. Using the seaside, in particular Morecambe, as a site specific to this project, I have been able to explore the Victorian concept (that still lives today) of visiting the bay for health and wellbeing.
The purpose of this project was to begin to normalise the taboo topic of pain, in particular chronic pain, by creating a universal visual language that anyone can use to describe their experiences. By using found objects, the pieces are accessible on a material level as well as conceptual, as it encourages the use of what people have around them to create art, removing the barrier of ‘needing’ expensive materials.
On discussing the project with fellow members of the Good Things Collective, I settled on the name ‘Pain
Portraits’ as they are, in their own abstract way, depictions of past and present experiences of pain. As part of the Creative West End, Morecambe Winter Market, I ran a workshop with these found-object creations where I
had two empty frames and an excess of my found objects, so I could encourage members of the public
to create their own versions of my Pain Portraits.
The results were fascinating, with a variety of people of all ages constructing their own representations of their pain. There were young children remembering their injuries, adults who had been through surgery, people who had experienced grief or other emotional pain: and no individual piece was alike. Every creation was a unique telling of an individual experience – some were more figurative, others stacks of compounded experiences and some told a clear story. What was also interesting was that I gave the participants the option of clearing away their ‘portrait’ after photographing the piece, some did this and found catharsis, others left parts of their creation and one specifically requested I clear theirs away for them.
This was an eye-opening connection with the public and I would love to continue running workshops
that surround the idea of creating a visual language for expressing chronic pain. So often we try to block
out our memories of pain or trauma, which makes them more difficult topics to discuss, particularly with
those who have not experienced pain in a similar way. As someone who lives with chronic pain, art has
been a form of coping and a way for me to display what I am feeling in a visceral way that anyone can
understand – I would like to share what I have learned and help others create their own language to aid
them in talking more confidently about their lived experience.
The LICA x GTC Launchpad is funded by Santander Bank and Creative West End, as part of a programme with Lancaster University encouraging responsible and innovative enterprise. The participants, a mix of Lancaster fine art BA graduates and Good Things Collective members, get studio space, their first art commissions, business support, and professional mentoring over the course of 12 months.