She Exhibition Piece 10 – She Dreamed

Alison James. 2022. She Dreamed. Ink and Acrylic. 525mm x 465mm.

This is the tenth artwork in my SHE Exhibition Series, which is based around mental health themes. As a narrative series of works, each piece tells a part of a whole story.

Not every moment She and I had were screaming, tumultuous things. After the reaching, came the dreaming. It was a moment of pause and I remember distinctly dreaming of a better time…a better life and finding it in myself to hope. I also knew that it was hard watching and supporting someone who was going through mental struggle, so when I dreamed, I dreamed of a better moment, not just for myself but for us all and I knew that the only way that moment would come was for me to find it.

I remember having a epiphany one day about the idea of backing myself. I was having a conversation with a friend about this idea of spending so much time and energy backing other people. Looking at other people’s work and loving it and because I love it so much, I like to promote it. I like to see other people’s success and am inspired by the incredible work they do. I will talk about them to anyone who will listen or recommend them on or post them through social media frequently, but when it came to my own art work, I was quiet.

I don’t like to talk about my work, or show it. When I do, this is the conversation my delightful brain comes up with…

Brain: Heeeeeyyyyy sooooo…Your work sucks.

Me: But…I’ve worked really hard at it. I practise and I consider each piece I do. I am constantly in the studio. Also…I have awards…and degrees…and multiple exhibitions!!

Brain: Yeah…nah. You are just really good at faking it. It doesn’t matter how hard you work, the things you do will NEVER be good enough…or even enough. You know one day they will all find out how bad you actually are at this and how little you know and how shit your work ACTUALLY is right? Then everyone is going to talk about you behind your back about how fake you were and how your work actually sucked and they can’t believe you actually have a degree at all and that you thought you were good enough to have an exhibition or be in an exhibition with other people. They are all going to laugh at you. Your work is TERRIBLE and the whole world sees that…it’s just you being egotistical and narcissistic that keeps all this going. You should give up. You’re so boring and so untalented it actually astounds me that you can find it in yourself to even get up in the morning.

Me: Oh my god…Shut UP brain.

Brain: But wait…there’s MORE. I could go on ALL DAY.

Me: …

Yeah that happens. THAT is imposter syndrome right there. It is helped along with a hefty dose of out of control perfectionism and unrelenting standards, that good old rejection schema and a number of truly maladaptive modes vying for as much attention as they can possibly get.

So when I was thinking about how easy it was to back other people and the things they do and how I look at their artwork with a different filter than I look at my own, I had this thought sneak in…”Why don’t you just back yourself?” And I took that thought and I followed it along a path of dreaming. What if I did? What would it feel like to look at my own work the way I look at other people’s work? What if I spent a lot of that energy backing MYSELF as if I liked my own work and what I did? What if I stopped being ashamed and instead was proud? What if I recognised that I put a lot of work and effort into what I do and judge the results not through unrelenting standards but on whether or not I achieved what I set out to do with each piece I made?

What if I just…block out other people’s criticisms and other people’s opinions, good, bad or indifferent and just let it be noise? Because that is all it is…just noise…and unless you are seeking someone’s professional critique on your artwork, it matters not at all and even then, it matters only to the point at which you recognise it as an improvement on your artwork.

What if I could be THAT person? How would THAT feel and what would that be like? And I thought…what an incredible dream that is. That would feel amazing. Back then, I remember holding onto that thought with everything in me and crying because I wanted THAT moment and to be THAT person and to feel THAT way so badly it ached. I had absolute clarity of vision about making that the new normal I wanted to walk into and every time I faltered, I kept that dream firmly in my mind and walked towards it.

This artwork is about having that moment of dreaming, when there is a break in the storm and you can look into a clear night sky and breathe and see a better moment coming. When you feel that moment of contentment because the next moment has every possibility and lifetimes of hope within it and it isn’t at all tainted. This piece is about taking a moment and setting it as a goal to reach for and live by, to push yourself towards a better time for yourself and in turn for everyone around you.

This style of drawing is very slow. I drew it with a dip pen and ink. I was constantly forced to slow my work and be mindful when using these tools. If you pick up too much ink on the nib, it makes a line that is too thick or even worse, you could drop a blob of ink on the page and ruin the whole thing. If you don’t pick up enough ink, it makes a scratchy, indecisive line. Every few lines, you are forced to stop, and re-dip your pen into the inkwell. Every half hour or so, you have to clean your nib because the ink dries on it and this means that the new ink you have dipped into doesn’t flow as well off it. The lines make this beautiful sound as you draw the nib over paper and the feeling of the marks you make are super satisfying. Everything is done with slow and purposeful intent and that kind of mindfulness is very much suited to the thoughts behind this piece.

She sits in this piece…and pauses. I wanted people to look at it, and breathe. You don’t have to think anything, just sit with her and know that this moment happened all because…

She dreamed.

Please do know that if you need help, crisis support is available

24 hours, 7 days

Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800

or check out some of these links…

Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

Black Dog Institute https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/

Lifeline https://www.lifeline.org.au/

And this is also a really good article by Australia Counselling outlining different mental health resources in Australia and what they do https://www.australiacounselling.com.au/top-mental-health-organisations/

2 Comments on “She Exhibition Piece 10 – She Dreamed

  1. Pingback: She Exhibition Piece 11 – She Wanted to be a Part of That World Again. – AlisonJamesArt

  2. Pingback: SHE – a narrative journey though acceptance of the mental struggle mindscape. – AlisonJamesArt

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