Statement: Mill View Hospital Exhibition, December 2005
The Sculptor’s Side of the Story…
Exhibiting at the hospital is a project that has grown on me over time. The more I have thought about it, the more I have realised that this truly brings a new dimension to my work; a depth and a very real purpose/meaning. That is a strong source of (much needed) encouragement and inspiration to me.
There is no good time to be admitted to hospital for any reason, but mental health admissions, in particular, can be very frightening and unsettling. They can also last a long time. So my work as an artist in this context is very much about diversion – distracting the patient from the fact they may be being man-handled into somewhere they don’t think they want to go. Once admitted and resting, my work is food for the patients mind; in a form I think many will appreciate and be able to ‘digest’. If they show an interest they will be able to find out that the work was produced by me – an existing mental health patient – just like them. I hope this will give them heart and the hope to set their goals high; to know that they too can achieve in their lives. If facilities are available they could even look at my website www.dreamstone.co.uk and see “how” I made the sculpture and maybe even when I will next be running a workshop that they could come to and have a go themselves!
So from now on the first thing a patient will see at Mill View Hospital will be my sculpture, “Love” – a large universally recognisable symbol of Love. If that is not enough to distract them, as they round the corner of the car park they will see “Ear-Shell-Blows” – a large sculpture of a shell that also looks a bit like an ear. Love to sooth and a giant ear to listen to all their issues… or a shell to hide in... Once inside the hospital there are two more sculptures to be found. “Evolution..?” and “Respect” are much a mirror for the patients own goals. Healing from mental ill health can be considered an “evolution or re-evolution” of a persons character. Respect is an important part of character and often needs to be re-learnt; both personal/self respect and inter-personal/worldly respect. The whole collection can also be said to have an environmental theme which I believe will be sympathetic to the feelings of many of the patients.
I have thought long and hard about exhibiting in specialist art galleries – but it has never appealed. Most ordinary people don’t visit galleries – so my work would sit there, benefiting no one and gathering dust – what good is that?! Galleries are about money and I realised a long time ago I cannot afford to “chase” money, through many galleries – what with my art being so big and heavy. Finding my patron is a bit akin to finding a needle in a hay stack – what I need is not a stronger pair of glasses and a sharp suit; but a magnet to attract them. This exhibition, with the added value of purpose it gives my work, is that magnet. I feel honoured that staff and patients seem to have appreciated my work being at the hospital since 2000 and that I have been allowed to further add and create this exhibition. Having been ill myself, it is a great pleasure to feel that my work may help and influence people in this context. I hope this is the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship.
The sculptures represent some 8 years practical application spread over 15 years due to illness. They are all hand-made from Portland limestone. They are the result of various sponsorship deals and a relationship with Mind in Brighton & Hove these last seven years. The sculptures are onfree loan from myself, Giles Wright and www.dreamstone.co.uk. The sculptures are still for sale – but my life is not over yet – so more will be produced; and if wished, may replace sculpture that are sold over time.
Here follows a short description of the individual sculpture now at Mill View Hospital (clicking "Names" will take you to pictures of that sculpture...)
The smallest piece to be found… This piece is a simple representation of life over death. The live whale’s tail on top curls under to reveal a rib cage, stripped of flesh – or some people see a hand and fingers holding the tail. Either way we are left with the same impression or question. To which my answer as the artist is that “Respect” makes all the difference; in everything we do, think and say. This was my first large sculpture and as such holds special memories for me. It has not ever seemed insignificant to me that “Respect” was the first thing I made… (Placed at the hospital in 2000)
This is a depiction of the skull of a bottle-nose dolphin with a question mark in its base. Stories of dolphin’s abilities inspired me as a child. How intelligent they are; how they live in balance with their environment – at times even helping us..! I am concerned with the rapid extinction rate and mankind’s hand in this. I wanted people to think about where we are going and how we are getting there. So I chose a skull for impact and just to make sure – put a question mark in the base to get the viewer thinking! I also chose the bottle-nose dolphin skull because it is like a ‘Ferrari’ in the skull world and because they appear so friendly, they have even evolved a smile in their jaw line! I think the smile softens the impact of the sculpture and in terms of this piece, serves to remind us that forgiveness is a part of nature too. This was my second large piece… (Placed at the hospital in 2000)
Hmmmm… What can I say about Love that has not already been said! "Love" was created at Brighton Marina as a project to help promote the newly formed Rockinghorse Appeal in aid of my local childrens hospital - The Royal Alexandra. I carved my way through 10.5 tonnes of stone donated by ARC South Western. My attempt with “Love” was to create a 3D symbol of Love. The result is an object that if approached on the level from almost 300 out of 360 degrees, the viewer perceives a heart symbol to a lesser or greater extent – the remaining degrees look a bit like two swans ‘necking’. If you look down on “Love” the viewer is taken round the circles of a figure of eight loop – the symbol of the Goddess of Love, Athena (ancient Greece). The sculpture weighs in at 3½ tonnes which is a bit too much for anyone’s shoulders alone! I am still learning about “Love”! Also “Love” makes a very nice seat – a Lovers Seat if you like, which comfortably seats two people facing each other through the heart. My third piece and by now the titles seem to have a natural progression and importance – which is mirrored in my own life. The experience of making this piece in particular had a very deep and profound impact on me – I had a rather ‘colourful’ time and I have many funny (and some sad) memories!
This sculpture is based on a sea snail shell I picked up when diving one day. This was extremely difficult to create and involved something of a personal journey for me. This sculpture was made under the shadow of my depression and mania, amongst other set backs. It was a battle. But I have won. In some ways it is fitting that it is a shell – I have had to break out of mine. It is also appropriate that the inner surfaces are on show too – because; in terms of my work, mine has been an inner journey to discover what my work truly is, what is its value and what is its place in society today (big questions!) and the same could be said for myself personally (who I am, what I am worth, what is my “raison d’etre”). I am proud to say that every surface had to be ‘found’ and could not be measured – to me that defines the difference between art and craft – in short, additional effort..!
Finally I just must pay tribute and give thanks to the source of my ideas – whatever name your language gives to that higher energy, that is life, and life in its abundance. For me, I thank Jesus.
I must also pay a special thanks to my parents, Sir John Skelton and his wife Myrtle, Gia, John Conduct (my C.P.N.), Stanmer Organics (for giving me a work site) and Andy Porter and Graham Millett of Mind for their personal support and belief in me through all my ups and downs.
Lastly I must remember and thank my many and various sponsors/supporters over the years without whom, none of this would have been possible… ARC South Western, Bath & Portland Stone, Chichester Cathedral Workshops, The Worshipful Company of Masons, The Prince’s Trust, The Arts Trust of Brighton & Hove, Brighton College, Brighton Marina, The Booth Museum (Brighton), Gamble Jarvis, National Westminster Bank, American Express (Travel Services), Asda Superstores, The Millennium Fund, The Arts Council of England, Mind in Brighton & Hove and various private donors who will remain anonymous here.
It’s been quite a journey to get here..! Thankyou all for your time and patience with me, and thankyou last but not least, to Mill View Hospital for accommodating my work.
Giles Wright, The Sculptor.
Foot Note: The reason there was no fuss made about my work arriving at the hospital in 2000 was simply that I was not well and I did not wish to seek any publicity at that time. That is not the case now. Now it is really a question of survival as far as my work and my ability to keep creating is concerned. So I would ask all who read this, whatever media you are in – please help me now. Obviously being a visual media I am very keen to get T.V. involved, but I would welcome any other media interest too. I feel I have done my degree (and then some..!) and I am now confident that I could give an interesting interview based around art and the topics covered in this statement (including mental health). So whatever media you are in, please consider the possibilities for me… Thankyou.
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