A time of mental healing - an artistic tribute to mental health
Updated: Apr 2
A bold new era of art is happening here in Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire, Wales. Check out what to see here in Kidwelly. Exciting and different, every piece an explosion of imagination. Welcome to the wonderful world of Welsh artist Julia O'Sullivan.
The Disorderly Demise of the Cerebral Cortex." - Mental Health oil painted sculptures.
In a time where mental health is suffering at its worst, we try to understand those who suffer the worst. Here is a tribute to all that suffer from mental health problems. A deep insight into showing the truth in a time of mental healing.
Most of my work has an organic flow to it, all my pieces are saturated with bold colour. My artwork is contemporary with sharp lines and contrasting dramatic scenes.
When I create a piece I am unpredictable as to where the story will take me, the transformation of the story through my eyes takes on a new and sometimes very exciting twist.
I put a lot of my soul into each piece I create, sometimes they are whimsical, sometimes they are horrifying. We are after all made up of both the light and dark.
Introducing 'The Heads'
I thought I would share my 7 heads with you in video form. In this video the 7 heads depict 7 different mental health conditions. These heads attempt to show what a person with these conditions live with every day. They are both beautiful and scary. I have taken the time to research each condition so that I could portray them in the best way possible. I myself do not suffer from any of these conditions but I do have family members that do, this is a tribute to them. Below are the individual videos of each condition, and my connection with them (if any).
Depression is one that I have a close connection with. My own husband has suffered all his life from this condition. It's not an easy condition to deal with and at times it was hugely draining both for him and for me. This head is how I see the condition and what I have personally witnessed along side my husband. Anyone who knows someone who suffers from depression will know the huge efforts they go to in order to keep it from others. The outside world tends to be oblivious to the raging torment going on in their minds. As a person who walks through life with such a person, I can tell you how I very much admire him. And as the years go by I realise how much of a rock he is to me as I have been to him. Never underestimate your value in life even if you suffer from one of these conditions.
The Depression sculpture itself.
The first head hides the reality, putting on a mask to deter people from seeing what is beneath. Inside this head all that is beautiful is being strangled and absorbed by the darkness. To look deep into someones eyes and see the storm raging is a hard thing to see, even harder to be be unable to help and take the burden from them. The effort taken to smile all day and everyday its like a black hole that absorbs light.
The second head depicts the caged mind which is inside the first head. The free sky and mind locked away.
As a person who has a mind of happiness and mental well being it was an eye opener to hear that he had lived all his life in emotional darkness and sadness. Depression and other mental illnesses rob people of their true potential. I do hope in the future they will put more research into finding out why some people's minds are so afflicted in such a way.
Dementia is another illness that has affected my family. My late father had frontal lobe dementia.
It was my fathers illness that prompted me to make this series of heads. Unfortunatly I was living on the other side of the world while his illness took hold of him. He went downhill far quicker than most with dementia, and luckily for those around him he wasn't aggressive, just away with the faeries. This illness is sad, and the person disappears into themselves day by day. It is like switching off lights in different rooms until they are totally without power in their minds. He was a fabulous human being, he had great integrity and a fierce sense of right and wrong. A great sense of humour and he will always be missed.
The Dementia sculpture itself
The head tells the story of how the mind reverts back to childhood and how parts of the rational mind disappear to leave holes in the consciousness. The colour of their personality drains away month by month to leave a vacant shell of the person they once were, all this is depicted on the head. All inhibitions fall away and they tend to behave in crude ways usually very different to how they were before the illness.
Anxiety is another illness that I am closely connected with. I have many friends and family with varying degrees of this condition. I have noticed that anxiety is a very crippling mental illness and at times extremely overwhelming for the person suffering from it. For a lot of people they only experience mild forms of anxiety, some mentally and some physically. But for some it is so crippling it is heartbreaking to watch them suffer.
I have worked very hard with my own daughter to help her through some very difficult times. One key element is to get help, whatever works for the person. Research all the different ways that other people have tried to cope with their illness and try each one to see what works for yourself. I also believe that starting people as early as possible on a self help regime and getting them in the habit of self help is very important to navigating this world as an adult. With the right mental tools and allowing yourself to self heal every day, to unwind the mind goes a long way in managing this illness. My big advise is not to ignore it, don't let it end up controlling you, try to control it.
The Anxiety sculpture itself
This head begins with the story of Anxiety on the outside, the mathematical equations represent the perfect order of the universe and the butterflies are a representation of the Chaos Theory. From what I have witnessed from severe sufferers they have a tendency to OCD, unfortunately you can't control everything and this in part is a problem for them. The copper rods have phrases etched onto them of phrases that can be taken in different ways, anxiety minds often take what is said and allow it to spiral out of control in their own heads (hence the spiral of words beneath the head). The inside of the head shows a rabbit hole with words and phrases representing what emotions race through their minds as they process life around them. Wrapped up in chaos this head represents the turmoil these people suffer with.
Addiction I think we can all relate to. I am lucky enough that I only have bad habits, but I have witnessed severe addiction in some people to the point of self destruction and death. Addiction can come hand in hand with another mental illness and often does. Sadly the terraformed landscape that Covid has left has seen addiction rise in places. Coming back from NZ last year to witness the sad mental state of everyone here was eye opening. Covid had not at that stage ravaged NZ in the same way as it had in the UK. People have aged quicker and their personalities have been robbed of their sense of worth, so unsurprisingly addiction has taken over. I am unsure how many years this will take to repair, maybe a few decades especially for the working class, after all they were the biggest hit and now with the increasing bills it is only going to cause even bigger pressures on already frail human beings.
The addiction sculpture itself
This head shows how dangerous the euphoric nature of addiction is, with the claws around the head pulling the person down into the darker parts of the illness. Inside the head shows the never-ending pathways towards the light, never getting there. The chains root the head to the base as these people are indeed manacled by their own illness.
Bipolar. I personally don't have a big connection to this illness directly, but have heard accounts from family members who have loved ones that suffer from this illness on varying degrees. I took the time to read blogs and watch videos of people who live with this illness, and took inspiration from what they had to say. Just because I hadn't had direct association with it didn't mean that I couldn't represent it as part of the collection. From all accounts it is a very difficult illness to control and the medication is rather brutal. I have heard of one person who refused to ever have children for 2 reasons, one so they would never pass on their illness on and the other, that they didn't want to inflict themselves on their own child.
The Bipolar sculpture itself
The two heads are painted in a mirror type fashion, the manic part full of colour and painted like a circus attraction, symbolising the chaotic adrenaline rush of the fair. The second head, the head of despair has the same images but broken and dark, and lacking the bright lights and colour of the manic head. The push me, pull you, polar opposites displayed in a grotesque fashion of one appearing out of the top of the other. The one head looking down is the darkness and despair and the head at the top is the elation and manic part of this illness.
Schizophrenia. I don't know anyone with this illness, but I took the time to research it. I thought that it was part of the series and therefore included it with very little direct influence to create it. A complex illness and very misunderstood by all accounts. I did find out that it is far more common than people realise and that for most it is a controllable illness. As with everything in life there are those who will suffer extremities with all these illness and those who have mild forms.
The Schizophrenia sculpture itself
The outside of the head shows the visual hallucinations of this illness while the inside depicts the audial hallucinations. I wanted to depict the uncontrolled confusion that comes with being schizophrenic. The audial hallucinations mocking the sufferer, telling them to die that they are not worthy and swearing at them. The ugly voices in the head, the uncontrolled itching of the physical and visual hallucinations. Yes I have experienced hallucinations in my life and for me it was a decision, I feel very sorry for those people who have these unwanted hallucinations plaguing their lives.
Dissociative Identity Disorder
Dissociative Identity disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder),is one that in most cases is caused by mistreatment or abuse from other people. I can understand why this can happen after living the life I have. I personally have suffered from mistreatment and this has led me to believe that if it had happened to me at a younger age then I too might have had my mind fractured. It is after all a self preservation that the mind can do this to deal with what is happening to it. To make sense of the horror that is occurring they create a 'super hero' that protects and lock away the more venerable part of themselves, the small child within. So this piece is very personal to me and one that I have a great awareness of even though my mind is intact, I feel my different selves but they very much work together as one. What a fine line there must be holding all that together.
The Dissociative Identity Disorder sculpture itself
The outside of the head shows 5 different personalties. Although I know the mind can fracture into many more I chose to depict 5. They range from a warrior to a hippy, a slut and a goth. The final one is the small child who is protected by the other 4. Inside the head shows the story of why the mind has fractured. It depicts the abuse suffered by these people. Sexual, abusive and psychological.
So with Mental Health Awareness week 2022 coming up I do hope you take the time to have a look at these rather unusual heads and maybe put yourself in the shoes of others for a few minutes. How they treat you is nothing personal, we all need to have a greater tolerance for these illnesses and a greater understanding.