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Mental health takeover: Artist maps her therapy journey with creative pieces

PUBLISHED: 11:30 14 August 2017 | UPDATED: 12:51 14 August 2017

Katherine Gilmartin in her studio in Norwich. She has put on an exhibition of a series of art works charting her journey through mental health therapy. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Katherine Gilmartin in her studio in Norwich. She has put on an exhibition of a series of art works charting her journey through mental health therapy. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2017

After artist Katherine Gilmartin went through 18 months of therapy with her son Finley, 11, she produced a number of pieces which mapped her journey. Here, she explains what a select number of pieces mean to her.

Stand With Her 2016. One of the series of art works charting Katherine Gilmartin's journey through mental health therapy called Stand With Her 2016. Picture: Katherine GilmartinStand With Her 2016. One of the series of art works charting Katherine Gilmartin's journey through mental health therapy called Stand With Her 2016. Picture: Katherine Gilmartin

Stand with Her - 2016

Though tatty and stained this piece means so much to me. Part of a body of work I keep coming back to even though it is difficult. It’s about making space for my childhood self, to understand and learn - something I learnt to do while my family was working with Compass Outreach was to sit with it. ‘It’ could be an emotion, thought, memory, difficult conversation or conflict. It is easy to pretend not to notice, remain silent, ignore or walk away. I learnt to sit with it, with her, myself and now I stand with her.

Polka Dot 2016. One of the series of art works charting Katherine Gilmartin's journey through mental health therapy called Stand With Her 2016. Picture: Katherine GilmartinPolka Dot 2016. One of the series of art works charting Katherine Gilmartin's journey through mental health therapy called Stand With Her 2016. Picture: Katherine Gilmartin

Polkadot - 2016

Though I have an arts education I didn’t paint until relatively recently. Painting really began as somewhere to physically put my anger, using thick oils straight from the tube pushing and scraping them around the surface. I do this alone in my studio, I learnt to be responsible for my own emotions, as with a therapy process it’s important to give time and space to adjust or recover. Polkadot is bodily, aggressive, glaring and caged. It follows a pattern of similar but non-symmetrical works, like the human face and body, it looks similar but it is in no way symmetrical. This is where I learnt to put my anger, first I had to learn that I had it and felt it. I had and still have justification to be angry but it’s not worth my time anymore. .

Overflow 2016. One of the series of art works charting Katherine Gilmartin's journey through mental health therapy called Stand With Her 2016. Picture: Katherine GilmartinOverflow 2016. One of the series of art works charting Katherine Gilmartin's journey through mental health therapy called Stand With Her 2016. Picture: Katherine Gilmartin

Overflow - 2017

This is one of those drawings that just flows out onto the paper. The lines tighter but simple. I had got to the point where I was using the same images, body parts and waves I could just put them down on paper, like someone else might write a sentence. It flows right to left, the opposite of reading a sentence or book. Backwards, to the past, a wave drawn the opposite way pushes forward, as a linear story moves forward. The eye is oversized, critically looking - which is something I can do now, something I learnt to do. The wave is reoccuring, often alone. Water, particularly the sea, has strong ties to emotional language. I enjoyed finding words to go with emotions, which often started with what a feeling feels or looks like. Before therapy I could only draw and find meaning through others interpretations.

Plump and Keen 2017. One of the series of art works charting Katherine Gilmartin's journey through mental health therapy called Stand With Her 2016. Picture: Katherine GilmartinPlump and Keen 2017. One of the series of art works charting Katherine Gilmartin's journey through mental health therapy called Stand With Her 2016. Picture: Katherine Gilmartin

Plump and Keen - 2017

There was a big self-applied restriction in this painting, using the same source and images but avoiding using black. Much of my work has big swathes of black or is black on white. I feared colour, had little confidence in my mixing and application of colour. Masking off sections gave a similar boxing and categorising areas similar to that in Polkadot. A yearning to box up and file away thoughts and feelings brings this boxing and line making. Some things aren’t that easily contained. I enjoy the bodily lines, lips and unrealistic, jagged, teethy lines. Softness with bite, this is something I play with, pushing together opposites to show the fine lines and edges of emotion.

Jewels 2016. One of the series of art works charting Katherine Gilmartin's journey through mental health therapy called Stand With Her 2016. Picture: Katherine GilmartinJewels 2016. One of the series of art works charting Katherine Gilmartin's journey through mental health therapy called Stand With Her 2016. Picture: Katherine Gilmartin

Plump and Keen and Polkadot are both going to be shown in an exhibition from August 21 - September 1, at St Margaret’s Church, Norwich - curated by Em-Re-Un (www.em-re-un.co.uk/bohemian-agenda)

Jewels - 2016

There is something quite fun and relaxed about this piece. The lines are looser than other ink work in my practice but it still holds definite structure, female form and occasional appearance of eyes and teeth. I love watching the ink play in the water, swirl around before it settles to its final mark. I started doing these when I needed to relax, it’s not over thought or heavily controlled. I’ve gone back to them recently and I’ll definitely come back to it again. Though far more abstract than illustration, the pieces with eyes, teeth and the female form come from the same place. Figuring out my own complex childhood to create a better picture for my own child. This piece is going off to London, Stour Space to raise funds to End Violence Against Women (www.stourspace.co.uk/portfolio/nasty-women-uk-22nd-september)

• For more from the EDP’s special mental health takeover edition, click here.

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