The Sum of Its Metaphors


Following on from the More Than The Sum posts. Y’know what? this week I finally completed the project! 18 months since the initial brief, the planning, the researching, the thinking and playing began. 16 collaged portraits which will be hanging in their final home tomorrow.

Almost all art has at least one metaphor. Sometimes it’s a visual message, daft or clever, subtle or blatant. And often times it’s something that shows itself in the creative process.

This piece was always going to be heavy on the metaphor. It’s to be displayed in the reception area of the National Spinal Injury Centre at Stoke Mandeville hospital, so it will be seen by hospital staff, the patients, their families, friends and dear ones. It’ll become part of the back drop to a range of emotion – shock, fear, interminable waiting, hope, intensity, perseverance, dedication, and so much more. Purpose-wise, top level: it’s bright, colourful, and a visual distraction. Close up their road-map qualities show up and the faces almost disappear. They might be a place to get lost in for a while.

But the meaning goes deeper than that.

As you know, the collages are made from intricate screen print/drawings which was the first of the metaphors – the repeating patterns, the tiny detail – the repeated exercises of physio and occupation therapies, the gradual steps toward more independence. The incredible patience and strength of character this demands from all involved. Layer on layer of print and drawing – day after week after month of incremental progress in recovery.

The metaphor that shows up in the process: How life is so contradictory sometimes.

Wouldn’t you think you’d see something better close up. You would, though, wouldn’t you?
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….apart from when looking too closely at something makes it vanish. From a distance: there it is. No doubt. Get closer and it fades out of sight. WTF? Really? Yes. Something like not being able to see the wood for the trees… perhaps.

These are some of the metaphors. Tomorrow I’ll show you the completed work, and describe the rest of the message.

nen nen ju shin ki


Thought forms are the children of an earlier project, my final project in the first year of my art degree. Focussing on the idea of meditation: trying to still the crazed jabbering of monkey mind, find some spaces between the thoughts.

Thought following thought following thought – rattling by. That internal monologue of commentary, judgements, relentless parroting of worries… do you listen to the babble? Do you try to drown it out? Music, TV, incessant banter – some folk don’t keep it inside – they are a non-stop torrent of witterings.

It can be exhausting.

And fascinating.

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This piece took shape as a 3 metre x 45 cm relief collage constructed from reclaimed bits and bobs, mostly painted paper, card, pins, tiny scraps of wood, wire, staples. These kinda things. The things and stuff that came to my mind as I was making it. Positioned in a corner it draws the viewer in so they become a part of the work, surrounded by the noise.

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Complex trains of thought – interconnected and overlapping – are represented by the darkest and most detailed elements.

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The process of meditation calming the mind from the persistent banter of thoughts by suspending this mental chatter from one moment to the next is represented by diminishing detail and lighter tones reducing to nothing in the centre.

I’d love to recreate this on an even bigger scale some day.