Legal Highs (2011)
50 x 40 x 1 cm
Acrylic, emulsion, dish scourers, and anti depressants on canvas
I was going through a hard time with my mental health and my GP advised me to start taking anti-depressants every time I saw her. I caved in after yet another request for long-term psychotherapy was turned down. The tablets come with a list of possible side effects, including potential suicidal thoughts, and they often make one feel worse in the first two weeks of taking them. The worst thing about taking them for me was my loss of integrity at agreeing to take them.
After I began the course of tablets an urge to cut up the pile of old scouring pads into pieces took hold, so I followed it and then sewed them to a canvas that I’d previously painted red. As I sewed, I thought about the tablets and felt more and more strongly that they weren’t the answer or even part of the answer for me. I scrawled a poem onto the canvas; it goes:
“I am not broken;
I don’t need to be fixed.
What I need is presence
For my parts to be mixed.”
At the heart of this is integration and that can’t be done by taking tablets; at the time I thought it could be done by working with a professional who could co-create a stable relationship based on trust, acceptance and listening well; this is what I craved. I began painting over the canvas and the scouring pad parts with white house paint. Layer after layer of paint went on until the red disappeared and the scouring pads were stiff and no longer resembled their previous form. I returned to the GP for a check up and asked how to wean myself off the tablets. After advising me against it, she gave me the information I needed.
After I weaned myself off the anti-depressants, I began pressing dots, using the end of a paperclip as my painting tool, onto the sculpture-painting. The final action came with the realisation of the name, Legal Highs; I glued the little pills to the piece.