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A Restricted Breath

oil on canvas



This painting is a visual manifestation of the feeling that occurs during the experience of anxiety when one feels they cannot fully inhale, or when it feels as though you have a weight on your chest. The title of this work is a line taken from a haiku poem I have written to support my work. The snake symbolises the physical toll of anxiety as it clenches the figure's stomach and ribcage. The poppies in the background allude to the loss of mind, as they have hallucinatory properties and has been historically associated with delusions. They are featured in Ophelia by Millais to signify her descent into madness. (Wilson, 2020, 56) 

"Deep Chaos Within" in progress

oil on canvas



This painting dramatises anxiety as being a very overwhelming and overstimulating experience.  The repetitious nature of anxiety manifests itself in the repeated organic pattern of crows and floral motifs that grow and weave their way to the top of the canvas. The repeated figure in different poses of discomfort are meant to express the agony of perpetual anxiety that effects one mentally and physically. I chose the crow specifically to symbolise this anxiety because it has historically symbolised bad omens, mystery, darkness and death. Elizabeth Frink's sculpture called "Bird" 1952 at the Tate Britain was a source of inspiration for my painting. She expressively sculpted a crow out of bronze, and its monochrome darkness and rough edges contribute to its overall disturbing and jarring quality. Frink said "In their emphasis of beak, claws and wings they were really vehicles for strong feelings of panic, tension, aggression and predatoriness." 

My main intention with this painting is to visualise a space between- or the breaking of a barrier between reality and an anxious dreamlike state.

This painting is still in progress and I intend on developing it further and experimenting with its materiality. It has been painted on a loose piece of canvas that has been nailed into the wall. When the wind blows the painting sways, and this, combined with the pattern causes the painting to assume a tapestry-like quality. I have begun to wonder how this effect could be exploited to enhance the significance of my ideas. (Further detail here).

Following the completion of the figures I am going to experiment with a raw umber glaze that will cover the entirety of the pattern and create a sense of depth which emphasises the distressed figures. I want to see then, how the act of wiping away certain parts of the glaze to reveal the pattern under the surface would be like wiping away the layer or veil that exists during derealisation. I am interested in how peeling back the layers in one's mind, or one's identity could be translated on the surface of my painting. 



Tate (n.d.). ‘Bird‘, Dame Elisabeth Frink, 1952. [online] Tate. Available at: [Accessed 10 Jan. 2023].

Wilson, M. (2020). Symbols in art. London ; New York, New York: Thames And Hudson. pp. 56

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