Whilst trying to maintain an image free of any direct reference to Parkinson’s, I find it imppossible to disregard symbols, motifs and colours I have used in my painting process while living with the disease, nor would I really want to. Parkinson’s is now part of my DNA, (a fact I cannot escape). Therfore I must be mindful of this, accept it and work with it.
My painting, titled Grey Matter, is an attempt to follow through with this approach. It is a representational work in a continuing project that I seem bound to. A process that involves visualisng thoughts or memories as they come to mind, then layering them. Each one accepted without question, with no vision of a final image in my mind. Grey Matter is a painting concerned with memory and thoughts about ones inner self.
Festination; those small steps that lead to a shuffling gait, that in turn make walking extremely difficult, can be very frustrating. Often it leads to loss of balance, freezing of gait and falling. Such frustration was the driving force that led me to create this painting, though the frustration itself played no active role in the creative process. It is an emotional response to merely one of Parkinson’s diseases many debilitating symptoms. Ones outer shell is plain for all to see, however for once I wanted to do away with bravado and document my innermost, vulnerable, self as I struggle to stay upright and move forward.
Parkinson’s and the struggle within. Now; over three years since the initial diagnosis, I question whether I have really accepted the truth of it. One cannot argue with the physical realities of the progressive disease and this fact alone places the mind in an uncertain situation. On the one hand it is obvious that I cannot be in denial, yet on the other I must be positive and push on. My mental disposition drives me to push on. However, at days end, with a body weary and mind most vulnerable, the underling conundrum remains. Towards what am I pushing?
The struggle of living with Parkinson’s Disease. I needed to depict a figure pushing against unseen forces that entangle and distract, forces that seem to anchor my feet. I pull against them, pushing forward towards the crossing. If I am bold enough to stand at the kerb, traffic will stop, then the pressure will be on for me to perform by walking without shuffling or freezing and make it safely to the other side.
“Over the River”- 60cm. x 72cm. Acrylic, charcoal,ink, on paper.
This painting was given the title “Over the River’, because it was influenced by the PD Warrior stepping exercise of that name. I find it a helpful training aid for my walking ability. Unfortunately, nothing is foolproof, and I suffered my first Parkinson’s related fall recently. The falling figures within the painting are a direct referenceto my own first fall. Documenting this way is helpful. Although I shall not forget this tumble, the painting fixes it in time, adding a chronological order to the event.
“The Writing is on the Wall” – acrylic, ink on paper. 50cm. x 70cm.
In this chaotic painting my prime intent was to include text, I am not sure why. Maybe it is out of concern about my worsening handwriting, or more likely because I am now able to include text with a certain authority. Words that mattered little to me a year ago have now assumed gravitas, they form part of the Parkinson’s story, which is now also my story, and so they belong.
Words, like dopamine, bradykinesia and leva-dopa, can be spelt out amongst the more established symbols, taking their place in a personal abstract vacabulary that forms the image. Without enough Dopamine, brain cells that control movement die, the ability to control movement is drastically reduced, – “welcome to Parkinson’s disease, Davie”.
Text was spontaneously scrawled across the surface with twigs dipped in various inks, I thought these final words to be a fitting title. For no matter what – Parkinson’s is a degenerative condition, “the writing is on the wall”, and inevitably, there can be only one victor.
Recognisable motifs or symbols have become recurring elements in my works. New symbols often appear as a painting developes and if relevant, they remain.
The hands developed from vague distant memories of junior school art, (when we would draw an outline around our hands to be coloured in). However when added to this work the hands took on a new meaning and memories most rececent, replaced those of earlier times. “Steady Hands” show that as a Parkinson’s sufferer, I am fortunate to not yet have tremors. The vibrant colours are my way of railing against a dull unpleasant disease. And the “Lost Neurons”, how else can I portray brain cells no longer there, than to have voids and holes within the image? Lost neurons are gone forever, I must use different cells to ‘rewire’ my brain.
“Scibbling”, Acrylic and Ink on paper. 50cm. x 70cm.
Another painting in my ‘Parkinson’s’ series of works. Composed of many layers, laden with symbolism and memory, from the blackboard in earlier layers to the egg in the foreground. It recalls the thrill as a young schoolboy is introduced to pots of coloured paints, comparing that experience to the same boy today,. Inspired by colour still, but now much older. ‘Scribbling’ has more than one definition in this painting, one meaning talks of handwriting as I re-learn to write. Another concerns memory. Recollections of a young boy, fascinated by the markings on the eggs of the Yellowhammer. As young boys we used to call this small bird the ‘Scribbling Master’. The egg itself may be a symbol of new life. It could be my new life, one of re-learning lost skills. Time passes; now it is I who may be the ‘Scribbling Master’.