Painting the pain was my way of dealing with the trauma of a catastrophic brain injury
When I was discharged from hospital after 4 months following a stroke, my disabilities were a burden. My left-side limbs were close to useless. My energy was drained for most of the day. And I was bad tempered beyond description.
Six months later, I could walk with a walking frame and just about visit the toilet in private. That was a relief. And one month after that I was accepted as a member of Headway East London, a day centre in Hackney that supports people affected by brain injury.
The centre had an annexe, an art studio in a railway arch where members could try any kind of art practice (painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, printing, textiles…). This quickly became my favourite place to be. It was also where they played the best music.
When the studio was invited to submit pieces for an exhibition at St Paul’s Cathedral on the subject of “identity after brain injury”, I made the first of what would become a series of 5 that I hoped would tell my story from the start to the present day.
That is how these five images came about. Each should be seen as a chapter in a story that spanned more than three years.
Studio head Michelle Carlile had told me that my handwriting was my most expressive quality (thankfully I am right-handed), so each picture contains a hand-written memory of the events at the time. For clarity, the words have been set in type for ease of reading and each chapter has a descriptive title.