Monday, 3 September 2012

My Life of Brian - E17 Art Trail Exhibition, 1st September 2012

When I was asked to exhibit as part of the E17 Art Trail I immediately said yes. I usually say yes to pretty much anything that will raise awareness of motor neurone disease. I started to frame up my prints thinking this will be a doddle.

I went to visit Walthamstow Library to find the best space. I had to find a fairly dark, large area to hang my work and situate an eyegaze computer. The only suitable space was partly in use but I was told that I could use the back wall. I was also told that I couldn't put nails in the wall so after many tweets I found a hanging solution. Gotta love twitter! Luckily, I met two of the Art Trail organisers by chance and I think they could see that I needed help and support. They introduced me to artist, Toby Poolman.

I can honestly say that without Toby my talk would have been dull and my work would have been crooked, instead of perfectly aligned on the walls.

Despite an English Defence League march and the police closing the roads around the library, I had a good turnout and really enjoyed the day. I still can't believe that I've had my first exhibition! Here is a transcript of my talk and more photos:

"Hello everyone and thank you for coming. When I was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in April 2000, I never imagined that I would have an art exhibition. In fact, if I'm totally honest, I never imagined that I would have one before I became ill! But here we are, so let's begin.  

For those of you that don't know about motor neurone disease, it's a fatal, degenerative disease with no cure. I've beaten the odds because the usual life span is 2 to 5 years.  I was only 34 and pregnant with my second child on diagnosis. I'm sure that you can all understand the shock and horror that I felt.  

I skulked around for a few years, unable to do much. That changed when I got my first assistive technology computer.  I've been actively raising awareness of motor neurone disease for several years. You may have seen me on a tube poster or in a scary cinema advert!  So, all in all, I was pretty busy, when my lovely friend Hector introduced me to Tobii eyegaze technology. Eyegaze has given me a new lease of life because it's much quicker than any other assistive technology.  Hector told me that I would be able to paint and draw with eyegaze and I was desperate to try.

I had some drawing skills but when I lost the use of my hands I gave up all hope of creating anything again.  I use software called Revelation Natural Art and will demonstrate how I use it soon. It's similar to art programmes on i pads but slightly trickier to use without hands!  Being able to create something again has made me feel much more content. I can escape from my normal life, which can be pretty frustrating and mundane.  I feel as if life is suddenly far more colourful and interesting.

My title piece, My Life of Brian, was inspired by slides of motor neurones at a conference.  Dr Brian Dickie was giving a talk and I was finding it a bit tedious, but I was transfixed by the images he was projecting. I'm also inspired by nature, as well as artists such as Modigliani, Picasso and Rothko, and have always loved colour.  The process of creating each piece is painstaking and can take several days or weeks. I have to be careful that I don't strain my eyes because they can become very sore.

I had to wait over one year for funding for my eyegaze technology and I'm incredibly grateful that I have this cutting edge equipment. I'm selling prints and cards online and all of the proceeds will purchase Tobii eyegaze technology for others with my illness.  I've extended my exhibition until 14th September and my work will be at the Arts and Crusts cafe, 19 Victoria Road, Walthamstow E17 4JT from tomorrow.

If you like something don't feel shy to buy it here or online!  I must thank Carol and Hector for telling me about the E17 Art Trail, as well as the Trail and Library staff for their support. Special thanks to Toby for his brilliant advice and for helping me with the installation of my work.

Thanks for listening.

Does anyone have any questions before I give a demonstration?"