Award winning, not-for-profit arts publication reflecting on mental wellbeing. Produced and curated by Alice Bradshaw, Vanessa Haley & Lenny Szrama in collaboration with Penistone Line Partnership. Founded in 2018. Currently funded by Penistone Line Partnership, Community Rail Network, Northern & CrossCountry.
In my youth I would cling to my stuffed rabbit when I longed for my mother. Trapped in isolation due to a global pandemic and unable to have physical contact with friends or family, I am reminded of that first feeling of loss. Because I Can’t Hug You is a series of small works that act as comfort objects, easing my sense of helplessness and loneliness while separated from those I love.
Burt the Bull, Cocky Sean, Curious Kevin, Daniel Tiger, Debbie Bear, Marla Mallard, Mumsy Rabbit, Ollie Frog, Papa Bear, Squish
Oil painting on canvas by Mick Smith. 45cm x 36cm.
Text to accompany piece by Aly Smith –
With my bipolar I am fortunate to usually have insight to when a hyper is about to hit. I can avoid triggers such as alcohol and going to gigs and the bizarre task that is avoiding all music by Pulp. I love Pulp but the crescendos in the music and in Javis’s performances lead me into exalted moods that on occasion have resulted in special tablets being administrated by the Community Mental Health Team….
This portrait was painted by my partner Mick 6 years ago. I was manic and I also was a super hero. I could fly. Except I couldn’t and ended up in a back lane flat on my face awaiting an ambulance. I buggered my nose and was patched up beautifully in A&E.
I look scared in this portrait. I was.
Mick Smith is a Newcastle upon Tyne based artist who works on large scale portrait projects exploring social issues.
These works are done either in oils on canvas or via digital painting. The works are depictions of NHS staff experiencing the effects of covid in the months of April and May this year. I work figuratively and in tangible and digital formats. I am interested in reflecting causes in society. In these works, I was influenced by each subject’s back story, experiencing the effects of covid n a daily basis. The wearing of PPE acts also as a shield to mental issues that might re-surface later on.
Self Portrait of the artist (Aly Smith) wearing her mask.
I should have kept the mask on…..
Wearing a mask is divisive. I get the confusion, the government continuously gives us varied messages and, to be frank, downright lies…. I am on the wear a mask side, I can’t rationalise not wearing one and with the many hospital visits we have had over the last three months due to my partner’s eye problems I am more conscious than ever of the vulnerability of the human race and the need to protect each other. Wearing a physical mask is completely alien to me but it is becoming a comforting place to hide behind and has made me consider the invisible masks I have worn throughout my life. I have bipolar. I am telling you this through my imperceptible mask which means I am not revealing how bipolar affects me, just giving you the facts, nor for sympathy … although some empathy wouldn’t go amiss…. My mask stops my manic thoughts spilling out of my mouth so protects my loved ones from concern and confusion. It equally prevents sadness and hurt coming out and causing more pain and anxiety to those who care, support and indulge me. I have worn an invisible mask for years, this may not be healthy, I am not ashamed to have this diagnosis but let me explain how when you trust enough to take the mask off what can happen with a very few ( of many) examples …. Apparently you need to tell employers you have bi-polar. I was open about this in my last role and it got used against me in such a cruel, bullying way it left me unemployed and suffering a breakdown, a couple of new medical diagnoses to deal with and emotional and financial poverty that I am still living with. I should have kept the mask on. I have told ‘friends’ before that I have bi-polar and have been taken advantage of physically, emotionally and financially, I should have kept the mask on. I have told medical professionals that I have bi-polar and have been diagnosed with ‘hysteria due to mental health issues’ whilst living with a broken bone in my neck for a year before anyone believed myself and my partner that I was in pain. I should have kept the mask on. My infertility was explained to me as something that would not get looked at as it was better for me not to have children as I have bi-polar. I should have kept the mask on. I aim for a place where I can be psychologically mask-free whilst donning my physical one just for the sake of protecting myself and others from Covid-19.
Aly Smith is a multi-disciplined artist living in Newcastle upon Tyne. She works independently and in partnership with her partner Mick Smith as #theartistssmith. Recent work is looking at her relationship with her bi-polar as she decides to get a grip on it after 35 years from the initial diagnoses!