When I was in grade 12, my art teacher handed out our final summative project which required each student to pick a theme and do a series of paintings based on our chosen theme.
My theme was death.
I know, so deep and moody. What can I say - I was the epitome of teen angst! The darker the better was my motto and I thrived in this little creative bubble devoid of colour.
Additionally, I chose it because I was suffering from undiagnosed depression and darkness was what my head was familiar with. I hated using colour in my work. I mean, I absolutely HATED colour. The only colour I would experiment with was red because it could illustrate a more Tarantino-esque vision of death. I’d splatter it everywhere. I still remember working on this project in the basement of our family home and my dad coming downstairs and asking me, “Why is everything you paint so dark? Why don’t you ever use any colour?”
The truth was, I had no idea how to use colour because it made me uncomfortable. Colour was wearing a dress when I'd rather wear basketball shirts and shorts. Colour made my skin crawl. It was anxiety. It was fear. It was insecurity. It was not me and I was too stubborn to think about changing. Colour was uncomfortable, just like dresses and makeup were at the time, only because it didn’t feel like an authentic reflection of who I was: a broken teenager who lacked conviction and the ability to see myself the way others did.
Colour also symbolized happiness and at this moment in time I was anything but happy.
Fast forward to 2019, 12 years after I completed this death riddled summative, and I’m a part of a show that celebrates colour. Getting to present a show that focuses on the joy of colour and how it has now infused my world, well, I didn’t think that this day would come. You might think I’m exaggerating, but for years I lived in darkness. My family and friends can attest to that.
Heavy shades encompassed my head and this bleak outlook on life was reflected in my clothing choices and the way I carried myself. I layered myself in baggy, heavy black sweaters and oversized t-shirts. I only ever wore black tights. I was hiding. I was trying to disappear.
Colour meant being seen. Colour meant confidence. Colour meant beauty. Colour meant joy. Colour meant having to truly exist in this world. Colour meant taking up space.
I didn’t want any of those things - until I found painting again in 2016 after extensive therapy.
After each session, I was actually tasked with wearing an article of clothing that was devoid of black at least once before my next session. It didn’t matter what colour, just not dark and it had to be fitted. I was challenged to wear jeans and I was encouraged to accessorize. At first, I felt like all of this was frivolous. What was the point? In my head this was all a waste of money and a waste of my energy - because I didn’t feel like I was worth having nice things. Colour was supposed to reflect how I was feeling inside and at this point in time I felt like I was barely existing. In essence, I felt like I was a corpse with lungs and a heart that still worked in spite of it all.
Today, the colours of my world are no longer monochromatic. I’m no longer held back by fear or insecurity and I’m no longer drowning in a pool of darkness. I'm no longer a bag of bones trying to make myself smaller.
This series is in your face. It’s bold. It’s colourful. It’s SO HAPPY. It’s proud. It’s confident. And most important, it takes up space. I’m not hiding anymore.
Colour symbolizes so many things for me, but the way it expresses my healed perception of myself and the world gives me strength.
Thank you, colour. My world has finally been infused with the power of your positivity, and I am eternally grateful.
New show opens April 2nd and runs until the 27th. The official reception will be held on April 6th from 3-6pm at the Santini Gallery.