Laura recently got in touch to show us her artwork and talk a little about her mental health history.
We particularly like her most current abstract work, and her use of colour. Seeing the square tiles of daily paintings piled up is a wonderful thing – a collection of emotions and mental states expressed through colour and line. Laura has been kind enough to write the following – an open description of her mental health history, and how her art relates. All artwork ©Laura Greenway. You can see more of Laura’s work on her website, here.
I’ve battled with mental illness for the majority of my life, suffering from severe OCD, depression and anxiety from the age of 11, and more recently being diagnosed with psychosis.
“I’ve been a mental health service user since the age of 12, firstly being under the care of CAMHS (Child and adolescent mental health services) and now under the adult mental health services and the EIIP team (early interventions in psychosis). Despite having a lot of trouble with day to day life, I recently graduated from the University for the Creative Arts, at which I studied a BA honours in Fine art.
Art has always been a huge lifeline to me during times of struggle, and it was at uni that my practice began to focus solely on my experiences with mental illness. Whilst I like to experiment with a number of different mediums (I have used photography, photo manipulation and sculpture in the past) I work primarily as a painter with watercolour being my favourite media.
My work explores a variety of different aspects of mental illness, with my main focus being on art as a therapy. I find art extremely therapeutic and use my paintings as a way of expressing my emotions. The majority of my painting is abstract – I like to paint as a raw communication of how I’m feeling at the time and often work whilst practicing a type of therapy called mindfulness. Mindfulness is a technique in which a person focuses entirely on what they’re doing in that moment. It involves acceptance of distressing or distracting thoughts, but the ability to try and let the thoughts pass without judgement. When I paint I try and focus on the action of the brush, the colours I am using and how they blend and interact with each other, but as well as this I really try and acknowledge my emotions, letting them spill out onto the canvas. This is why I mostly identify my work with the movement of abstract expressionism.
Recently I have also become really interested in colour theory, and try and use colours in a way that express how I’m feeling as I paint, however I usually try and use colours that jump out at me or that I identify with, instead of going for colours that are obvious choices. For example, I don’t choose the colour blue purely because it’s often associated with depression, however if I am drawn to that colour when I am feeling low then I will explore it. I also sometimes use illustrations to personify the emotions I’m feeling, creating characters that represent my mood and integrating them into the abstract paintings.
The main aim I have with my artwork is to create a dialogue about mental health, hopefully challenging and breaking the stigma that so often surrounds mental illness. Although with a lot of my abstract works it may not be clear at first that they are about mental health, I hope that the work intrigues people enough that they find out about the meaning behind my paintings, opening them up to a conversation about mental illness. I also aspire that my work will encourage other people with mental illness to express themselves via art as I have found it is such a great way to communicate my experiences and to aid in my recovery.”