Then too you cannot spend an hour alone;
No company's more hateful than your own
You dodge and give yourself the slip; you seek
In bed or in your cups from care to sneak:
In vain: the black dog follows you, and hangs
Close on your flying skirts with hungry fangs.
~ Horace, ‘Satire 2.5’, The Satires, Epistles and Art of Poetry, c33-35BC
This is an exhibition about depression, but don’t worry, it’s also about resilience. I wasn’t depressed when I made this work. I haven’t stopped creating in some form since my last solo exhibition, Two Crosses, in 2008, so I’m not sure I’ve truly been depressed. Depression seems to have many grades, it’s hard to tell what shade of blue you were in hindsight.
There are a few reasons why there has been a large gap since Two Crosses – the emotional fall out of having a solo exhibition, feeling like there is nothing worthy to say, the Internet, feeling burnt out, poverty, cynicism, loneliness, a crisis of confidence, self-doubt, feeling lost in the woods… you know, things like that.
Then there was the ‘Great Recession’ of 2008: economic depression is depressing. Cuts to arts funding have been deep and have affected many friends and contemporaries. Six years later we are officially out of the recession but things are no better and I feel we are living in dark times. Unhappiness, struggle, injustice, violence and media manipulation swirls all around us.
When things are bad it’s hard to be alone. As an artist I’ve worked by myself for hours, days, weeks and years. Not talking to anyone for a whole day ends up taking its toll. However solitude has been necessary for me to create good work, it’s only recently that I’ve been finding it difficult and counterproductive. Some say it’s romantic to be working alone and being creative, and whilst it can be rewarding I’m not sure individualism is the way forward.
Maintaining the motivation and confidence to produce art isn’t easy and quite often it isn’t even in your control. Between 2008 and 2011 I didn’t want to paint or draw. This was a difficult period because my emotional outlet had been turned off. I had to force myself to create in other mediums (music and animation). I also began to collaborate with others and found that very helpful.
This exhibition is a broken and scattered narrative; scenes from an unmade film chopped up and rearranged by a chimp. Some paintings are single moments of a half-imagined story, others are fragments of social commentary, and the rest are simply abstract thoughts relating to something personal or domestic. There are reoccurring themes and iconography, such as campfires, lizards, parenthood, fear, love, death, sadness and nature. This work is the result of feeling good about putting paint onto paper again.
Some imagery has been stolen from the Internet, some has been stolen from my mind. You steal when you are in need, and you get only what is available to you. When you are recovering, restriction can be healthy.
I’ll finish with a note that I wrote to myself when I began to paint again: “The forest knows where you are, and that is all that matters”.
I hope this message finds you warm, safe, content and resilient.
Daryl Waller. Oct 2014
This exhibition was held at the Millennium Gallery, St Ives, Cornwall in 2014.
Here are the forty one pieces that made up the exhibition.
Or email me via the contact page.