Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Nick Blinko's Art

Nick Blinko is an outsider artist currently represented by the Henry Boxer Gallery in England. This is what their site has to say about him;

"In the case of British artist Nick Blinko (b.1961), who has in the past been hospitalised, the need to make pictures is stronger than the desire for the psychic 'stability' brought by therapeutic drugs which adversely affects his ability to work. His images are constructed of microscopically detailed elements, sometimes consisting of literally hundreds of interconnecting figures and faces, which he draws without the aid of magnifying lenses and which contain an iconography that places him in the company of the likes of Bosch, Bruegel and the late Goya. These pictures produced in periods when he was not taking medication bring no respite from the psychic torment and delusions from which he suffers. In order to make art, Blinko risks total psychological exposure".

(Colin Rhodes . 'Outsider Art : Spontaneous Alternatives', Thames & Hudson)

On Wikipedia I learned that Nick Blinko is schizoaffective. I thought it interesting that he stops his medication in order to have more creativity. The rewards in terms of notability for making his type of art are enormous. The gallery that represents him is premier. His work is prized as typical of outsider artwork, one of the few mentally ill people who make art in the "style" of obsessive, detail orientated artwork like the artwork of schizophrenics who were hospitalized before the invention of drug therapy. Blinko is in museum collections. Most notably The Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne and The Outsider Collection and Archive, London.

I recently had a letter from a woman studying to be an art therapist. One of her questions to me was did my artwork change from when I was less stable, to more stable? I replied that currently I was lowering my meds dose in order to be more creative, risking stability to gain a creative edge. Originally I lowered the dose for health reasons, but now, seeing how happy I am with my art, I have realized that for me a lower dose of medication means improved creativity. I also told her that I was more fragile, but stable, and that there was a difference between stability and fragility.

I didn't tell her this, but my therapist says I'm the best he's ever seen me. I may worry that I'm fragile, but this is not what he is perceiving during our visits. I'm starting to consider that anti-psychotic medication creates depression, or at the least, not wishing to use that popular medical term, dysphoria. I know that since I've lowered the dose significantly, I'm not crying at therapy sessions or arriving and saying that I'm worn out, distressed, or mentally fried. I don't complain anymore at sessions about the current shape I'm in - I'm not saying I feel crazy or express much anger over having this illness. I'm almost always happy and stable. At the worst, I'm a little spaced out but even this is more of an inner reflection and does not seem to manifest itself during conversation.

I don't think dysphoria is a popular or even noted side effect of antipsychotic medication. However, when I got out of a hospitalization in 1991 after being on heavy antipsychotic old school medication for two years, and being very depressed for two years, a Yale professor of psychology who I was seeing as a therapist suggested that my depression could have been enhanced by my medication. If the feeling of being medicated or doped up is so unpleasant that many go off of their medication, preferring to be med free, it might be that in the med free state they experience a lightening of affect. Not just buoyant from the lack of being mentally slowed down, or sedated, but having a legitimate lust for life that the medication extinguishes.

While I'm having no positive symptoms, my negative symptoms are the same or maybe worse. Its hard to know whether or not being "tired" and impeded was from being sedated on anti-psychotics or more currently, being over-stimulated and then bringing on negative symptoms. Nowadays, if I have a busy, activity filled day the next day it is much harder to find energy to get out of bed. There have been days recently when all I did was lie in bed and watch movies having no motivation or will power to do anything else. Sometimes there are moments when I'm so drained I can't even speak. For instance, I can't answer my husband when he asks me a question. This happened last Sunday after I spent two hours on a drawing. He wanted to know something but all I could do was mutely look at him. Knowing me, he just let things be without an answer. But then after an hour of just lying in bed, I got up and started to clean the house. So the negative symptom passed. Energy, will and drive returned. After being taxed, the brain rested and readjusted. Overall, I had a busy, fun filled day Sunday.

For the past several days I've been working on a drawing, intending to color it in with oil pastels. It is at the pencil line planning point and very detailed. I'm really happy with how it is going, only, I hope I have the skill to draw fine detail with the messy and blunt medium of oil pastel.

I felt the need to do something super creative, that's why I started the drawing. The process of painting is very slow and sometimes boring. My next task for the canvass that is on my easel is to paint bark on a tree. How dull. Gradual gradations of color is needed as the rounded tree trunk takes shape. One color would read a flat paper cut out tree trunk, no volume in space.

On a sad note, the pharmaceutical company that was going to fund the exhibition of my artwork has cancelled the project. Currently I'm waiting for Fed-Ex to return the artwork that I had to ship, to all places, Canada. There was a company in Canada that was going to create the physical layout of the art display. Or so I imagine. So my art will not be touring this next year with other works by schizophrenic artists, exhibiting at medical conferences. I have to say though, while the project was in its planning stages it was very exciting and I was emailing sometimes every day to a PhD coordinator in New York City. The hardest part wasn't writing about the artwork, or creating a bio, but oddly enough packaging the art for transit. I had to find picture boxes (went to three stores) and then try to physically wrap and fit everything so that it wouldn't get damaged. The grunt work was what I was least adapted to. My husband once said that he has seen me try a physical task I've never done for an hour, and then be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. So trying something new, if it's physical, is hardest on me. Using my mind to solve a problem, expressed through writing or art, now that is much easier.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Karen,

    I am so sorry to hear that your work will not be exhibited, especially after all your hard work. Still, this might have been a trial run for you with the future bringing new opportunities. So keep looking and keep working.

    So far, I tend to agree with your therapist in that you seem as if you are doing quite well on a lowered medication. Even though I am committed for now to taking the medications, I am rooting for you to succeed. I want you to be very happy. Your art is integral to that happiness and if you feel that you are more creative with less medication, you have to test it out.

    Love, Kate : )


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