Q. How did you select the colours and weave their names into spelling out the sub-title and why did you choose such unusual names?
KEVIN– I guess as a writer you wanna somehow surprise your reader. First and foremost you wanna surprise yourself and these unusual names for colours gave me a kick when I found them many years before the conception of our book. I’m kind of a word hoarder, I keep my own personal dictionary of words that I love or that interest me and that’s where I found the unusual colour terms. When I discovered them first I was quite childishly excited, you know, a new word, for an old word, I was a bit giddy, I’m sure there’s some people out there who know what I mean, I think they call them ‘Lexophiles’. Incidentally there’s a theory that postulates that your intelligence is entirely based on your vocabulary, i.e. entirely based on your ability (when presented with any given element of reality) to name it. And possessing the name, pertains to a possession of an understanding.
I’m not sure if you go along with that but anyway these unusual names felt complete right for the piece. Spelling out the subtitle wasn’t too hard as we had so many colours to choose from. However we didn’t have all the colours for the subtitle so we had to make up a couple of our own. For example ‘Nil-Hue’ is a made up word, ‘Nil’ meaning ‘negation’ or ‘no’ or ‘not’ etc and hue meaning colour, so for us it means ‘no colour’ or ‘the negation of colour’. However most of the colours were researched and are real colours.
Q. How much of your life has been spent walking with “the black dog” and how has this affected your work in your chosen art forms?
SUSANNE – I first started writing when hospitalised with depression several years ago. Having studied English at university, I was always interested in the analysis of poetry, but it never crossed my mind to write them myself. I was on the other side of poetry until I crossed that line. Suddenly I felt this urge to make a mark, both in writing and in art, as a way to show myself that I exist. The writing just broke out of me, it was a great catalyst for my inner turmoil. The same goes for my art, I was never brave enough to be the artist until I was broken down in pieces and had to reassemble myself and go back to the roots of my existence. Drawing and painting has helped me immensely to deal with the beast, the pain inside.
My aforementioned series “Antilife Manics” reflects on the struggling individual in contemporary society. The collages and paintings tell stories of anxiety, mental turmoil and suffering and can be understood as a comment on today’s pressures in society. As a whole, this body of work represents “Weltschmerz”, the realisation one’s own weaknesses are caused by the inappropriateness of the world.
Another project in a similar vein was “Face It”, where I created abstract portraits of mental health sufferers. In 2012, I spent 4 months in a mental health institution due to Major Depressive Disorder. The foundation for “Face It” started off with a self portrait, trying to express how torn apart I was, how I was falling into pieces, troubled and questioning my identity. The result was an abstract portrait. I was so inspired that within days I started to make portraits of the people I met in hospital. Everyone had their own story and their own suffering. The other patients agreed to get their portrait done because I told them they wouldn’t be recognizable. For me, it was a way for people to show their face yet remain anonymous. Hidden behind a web of lines and shapes I felt I could attempt to portray the pain, the troubles and the sense of crisis that was often written on the faces of my fellow patients at the hospital. Abstraction was the key to depicting the faces of patients in a psychiatric ward and to expressing their emotions whilst still granting their privacy. The emphasis on maintaining the anonymity of people suffering with mental health issues was to me a way of highlighting how social stigmatisation can divert people’s attention away from the real emotions we all feel. The desire for anonymity and the social pressure to appear ‘normal’ are natural impulses but fear of stigmatisation can exacerbate the situation to crippling levels and making these artworks was my way of tackling this issue.
KEVIN – I don’t know how long I’ve been walking the black dog except to say I really can’t really remember a time when it wasn’t around. It’s affected my work immensely. It appears to present itself as the chief process of my life and thus it becomes a part of every process of my life, my work as an artist is just one of these processes. Just one of the many features of one’s associations with the black dog is a heightened sensitivity. A little like if your ears were so sensitive that they could hear a pin drop three blocks away. Well, with the dog comes as I say this heightened sensitivity, so in turn you could (if you understand me) feel an emotional pin drop three blocks away.
Now this is an extremely painfully overwhelming state of mind to endure, however, when it comes to making art, this very unwelcome inner state turns into an extremely useful and in some ways accurate tool for forging a work of art, no matter what is your chosen medium. So in that sense it affects my work immensely.