Enforced hiatus

Boneyard 2

Boneyard 2

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve got some health problems at the moment. I thought long and hard about posting this, because I appreciate that it is never good to hear bad news, even from someone you don’t or hardly know. However, and in keeping with the aim of this blog, I am introducing the subject because of its impact on my practice. I would stress that this post is not a cry for help or attention, and what follows are observations, not complaints.

Basically, I’ve been diagnosed with throat cancer. It’s unwelcome arrival was heralded by a greatly swollen lymph node, which had even me worried (and like so many of us, I’ve always believed in my indestructibility). This led an ENT surgeon to remove an engorged right tonsil, and thus the malignant cells were discovered. Not good news, to say the least. Fortunately, it’s not spread yet, and the oncologists reckon there’s a 60 – 80% chance of a complete cure. In order to make sure of this I start a very heavy chemo schedule on Monday (15 days in hospital over 7 weeks, in blocks of 5 days at a time, hooked up to an IV and receiving 3 different sorts of chemical) and in September will start 35 radio sessions, with another 3 chemo sessions interspersed, over the following 7 weeks. Heavy indeed, but I’m all for throwing everything at it in order to try and kill it off, no half measures please. Overall I am positive about the likely outcome, not least because I’ve more chance of staying sane and retaining my friends if I avoid wallowing in the pits of despair and depression πŸ™‚ but also because the prognosis is quite good (and yes, I do understand probability)

All well and good, and hopefully by March next year I’ll be through the treatment and its after effects, and planning my next shows, but in the meantime, where does this leave me as an artist? I don’t mean this in terms of my subject matter. The concern I have is the effect that the illness will have on me, the Art Business. If I had paid employment, I would be off sick with a job to return to, and the sustainability of my employer would not be rely upon my attendance (none of us are indispensable, after all). However, like many other sole traders, my workplace is dependent upon me. I cannot keep it running by paying someone else to caretake it for me, nor can I rely on the slight attention I’ve garnered so far to sustain interest in my work over the next 9 months. As an artist at my level, I am only as viable as the level of buzz I have managed to generate around myself at any point in time, a variable factor which requires no small effort in itself to maintain, let alone increase.

I am retaining my studio for now, and will paint when and if I can, though I suspect my output is going to diminish. Production however is only half the job of the artist, particularly one who could just at a stretch, be called ’emerging’. My main mode of promotion is through exhibition, carefully themed, and with works that are intended to exist in dialog with each other as well as the audience, have proved to be the most effective vehicle for engaging potential customers and followers. They are however energy consuming, and require sufficient new work to justify their staging. Both of these are likely to prove elusive over the next few months. The realities of the situation have already led to the cancellation of my joint show with Paul Dearden as I simply won’t be able to produce the work I wanted for it (he’s going ahead with a solo show instead, and I look forward to hopefully seeing it). My plans for a London exhibition in the autumn have also had to be dropped, I doubt I’ll have the energy, even if the logistics of daily hospital visits in Sheffield through Sept/Oct could be overcome.

Of course, given that I have a reasonable body of work, others could curate and stage shows for me, and friends have offered to do this. However, either because I still retain delight in the creation of an exhibition, or because I’m a bit of a control freak, this doesn’t seem a viable option. I need to be involved, and I need to be present, and in both respects I am compromised by my health.

In the face of these barriers, online is of course the major option open to me. The new online gallery that I have committed to is taking it’s time about launching, teething troubles that I’m sure will be overcome soon. Therefore I am left with the wonderful world of the web as a vehicle, and in the absence of significant new output, my existing body of work. I will explore setting up a dedicated website, because whilst this blog gains attention, the gallery pages here are less successful. This will leave this page as an outlet for my ramblings, and a means of featuring individual pieces. I will not be focusing on the cancer, though I may provide updates as to progress if it seems appropriate.

In keeping with this aim I offer you Boneyard 2, a revisit to an earlier piece, larger, and continuing my exploration of colour. Boneyard is inspired by images of mothballed planes in the Mojave desert, and abandoned vehicles and trains in Greece and the North Africa. I hope you enjoy πŸ™‚


8 thoughts on “Enforced hiatus

  1. Only know your work (you) through this site. I do hope indeed that you stay with the treatment, it’s going to make you sick, you probably know, but cancer is beatable these days. Stay positive and endure as best you can. Maybe let your friends help you with curating your work? It’s encouraging to know that the work is out there, being shown and getting around specially because you can’t. Hope to hear from you from time to time. Spilling one’s guts is good for one.

  2. Hey John, newfriend, of course, the good side is that your desires, needs and artist’s stubbornness will all be diverted through, possibly surprising and creative, new channels – the double advantage being artistic development and a refocussing of your mind and energies on positive outcomes!
    You have the right attitude, I’m with you.
    Don G

  3. Cheers all, and yes, I’m staying positive, greetin about it won’t change anything after all, anyway, a cynic is an optimist with experience πŸ™‚ Current political situation, globally, provides more than enough inspiration as it is for new pieces (working on a piece called ‘pressure cooker’). It has to be said that I am also very annoyed about the whole thing, which is a good way of staying positive in itself πŸ™‚

  4. John, there is not much I can say to add to what you have said, as well as other comments.
    My thoughts are with you in this difficult time and not least on the work front.
    Am hoping that you succeed with the website approach. I know you are not asking for money and hope you wont be insulted, but if I can help at all if things get really difficult, please don’t hesitate to get in touch (just contacting me without asking will be enough as I would ask at that point!) If your Dad were here I know he would offer the same.
    Good luck with the treatment and after effects. Yes the world is in a more than usual mess isn’t it. Pressure cooker sums it up admirably.

    • Sorry Sabiscuit, only just seen this. I’m good thanks, doctors are confident that they’ve got rid of the cancer, and I’ve been focusing on getting back to where I was. I’ve had a good 2016, with a small show at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, and have been pushing the development of my work in some exciting new directions. I should be staging my first large solo show in a while at the end of June in Sheffield. Hope all is well with you πŸ™‚

      • John, thank you so much for getting in touch. I had been looking out for your posts when I wrote that last comment. I am very very happy that you are healing and hope that you will continue to heal. Good to hear about the production. Throwing yourself into something you enjoy is just the thing. Good luck with the Sheffield show. I am sure you’ll have all the support you need. Warm hugs. xo SB

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