The Stranger – World Bipolar Day

The Stranger

The Stranger

My experiences of hallucination have been primarily mood-congruent with depression. This means they abide by themes of depressive states, such as death and vulnerability. For me, both sensory and tactile hallucinations have been dominated by violence. Some of the worst experiences have involved violating attacks, leaving me in physical pain and reaffirming my delusional beliefs.

This means it becomes extremely difficult to regain reality and to come to terms with the incident as a symptom of illness. No matter how many times I experience the same sort of attacks, I find myself cutting across my hips where I can still feel the pain caused by the touch of my attacker. It leaves me obsessed with my own mortality, and I move from being deeply suicidal to believing myself dead or in the process of decay.

I feel my skin peeling away from me, and I feel as though The Stranger is the comfort by my side. A god who brings death as a part of the cycle of creation and destruction, this drawing is who I believe him to be. Somehow my burns and cuts heal, and my skin returns, almost like his. I feel as if I’m put back together layer by layer by The Stranger, one who is himself reborn to either perpetuate or end life as is needed.

This is one of my most detailed pieces created using a pointillism technique with pen and ink. It was essential for me to capture the burns, the decay in the skin, and the emotional expression in these eyes responsible for mortality. I’m sure many of you will recognise the face as that of Sandor Clegane, The Bloody Hound. A Song of Ice and Fire has been one of my favourite places to escape to, and I believe The Hound to be some kind of avatar of The Stranger, which brings me comfort in the times where I have believed in my own decay.

I wanted to share this for World Bipolar Day because, even though this piece of writing sat alongside this drawing at my first solo exhibition over a year ago, I have been putting off posting it as a blog. It was one of the most difficult to put up in the gallery as it is such a tricky aspect of the condition to talk about, so I have been apprehensive about putting it online. But looking back on the process of creating this and other pieces inspired by my experiences reminds me how important finding a way to express the experiences has been, if even to find a way to work through them in my own mind.

It’s also interesting to look back at this portrait (where has the time gone that I drew this a good year and a half ago?) and to compare a piece like this with the more recent artwork I have been creating. Much like my wildlife studies, in pieces like this I want to take something that’s a point of familiarity, but then play with expectations by showing how it connects to experiences of manic-depressive illness. However, in recent artworks, I also want to pose more of a challenge to perceptions. I will follow on from this blog with a look at one of the pieces that takes a different approach to psychosis, with a note on the direction I’m taking my creative practise alongside PhD research into representations of bipolarity.

Thank you for reading.

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