Isolation and Self-Destruction: My Interpretation of 'Welcome' - Part 2
Personally, the concept of isolation is a very seductive one when I'm ill. It's a great way to remove the support of friends and punish myself for deeds that the depression is telling me I've committed. So I designed a main character who would be seductive. I went down the path of utilising the way that companies seduce us when they are advertising their products. I used a slim female character to evoke the way that models are cynically employed to welcome people at some events e.g. the Essen Motor Show; just look it up on Google images to see what I mean. (And if you're Doncaster Rovers you get the models to give out irritating flappy clappy pieces of card that children can then use to batter each other senseless with throughout the game.) After all, she has been put there by a selfish and dishonest illness. Her one purpose is to lead the viewer to the rocky hill, and gain power for her boss, the depression.
The Venetian mask was added to aid her seductive nature but also to hide her true features and intentions. I'll leave her true visage up to your imagination. There are signs in the painting that she's not the most pleasant of characters. The main one is the snake-like translucent cloak that leads the viewer's eye to the small hill. Her skin may look glittery at first glance, a bit like one of those shiny dancers on Strictly Come Dancing, but I actually used slug skin as my reference (which always makes me chuckle in a slightly evil way). In addition, the eye holes only show darkness. On closer inspection, a subtle texture can be seen in the darkness. Is this part of the mask or part of what's underneath?
I used warmer tones for the character and in her vicinity also. But as I got closer to the single tree I used cooler colours. I blended between these over the course of the journey that the viewer's eye takes. This was to show that in my case isolation started gradually - almost without being noticed - until eventually I was isolated.
This is the way I imagine the story of this painting: I find myself walking into this landscape, encouraged by the welcomer, inexorably heading towards the small hill. As I reach it, any initial warmth has gone, replaced by a bitter cold. I look back and she is still there urging me on. So I climb the hill and look at the tree only to find that it is dead and hollow. When I touch it, the last vestiges of warmth disappear along with the welcomer. I am left in this dark desolate landscape perfectly alone. In my mind the horizon stretches off to infinity in all directions so I am completely cut off from the rest of the world
That all sounds a bit grim and... well... depressing, doesn't it?
Well that's not my reason for painting it. I find 'Welcome' very positive and here's why: occasionally thoughts of isolation creep into my head - trying to get under my radar - but this painting instantly pops into my head and allows me to turn the thoughts around or dismiss them for the rubbish they are. I'm a visual person so giving me an image to attach to these rogue thoughts has been incredibly powerful. I've lessened depression's ability to be quite so sneaky by giving myself an easy way to recognise and name these thoughts.
I hope that other people will find the image similarly helpful.
In the last five years, I've realised that the cycle of gaining then losing friends wasn't a part of my personality, it was part of an illness. This painting helps me to guard against these thoughts and keep the friends that I've now got.
So if you ever feel that you are being welcomed into this isolating landscape, turn around and walk back to your friends.
For the interpretation of my next painting in the series - 'The Insidious Whisper' - Click Here.
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