Things are moving on very quickly now with the Breast Cancer project. Thanks to all of your generosity through the Just Giving page I reached my target amount for funding and I have been traveling the country speaking with ladies who have volunteered to be part of the project as it now develops. I have laughed (and cried) and I have been profoundly moved by the stories I have heard, and the experience has made me even more determined to continue with this work.
In terms of work then – the body of images that will make up the exhibition in November at the Hearth Gallery in Llandough Hospital here in Cardiff is definitely underway. My studio has been taken over with large scale drawings on the walls and equally large canvases on the easels. I have begun the large scale drawings that refer to the history of breast cancer and its treatment (and I am bound to get my philosophical thinking in there too!) and they complement other large scale works that refer directly to the present day. All of the drawings will be annotated and overlain with text and imagery based on the conversations I have been having and my experiences of meeting with the women.
Additionally there will be three oil on canvas portraits in the exhibition: two of patients and one of a surgeon. All three subjects have enthusiastically agreed to the ‘procedure’ of sitting for their portrait and the paintings are designed to ‘articulate’ the general experience through the particular. The first lady has already started the process and the painting is taking shape. The image here is taken from a preparatory sketch.
Talking with and listening to the women I have met, both here in Cardiff and across the country, I have come to understand – deep inside myself – that this project – and indeed the Drawing Women’s Cancer project as a whole – has gone ‘beyond’ any form of academic research in the most literal sense. The utter frankness and searing honesty that characterises both the personal narratives that I am party to, and the relationship that is kindled within the short timeframe of my being with each individual woman, are not things that can be forced into any sense of objectivity or prescription. Nevertheless I certainly feel that the results of my ‘autoethnographic stance’ are equal in ultimate value to a more qualified yet detached appraisal, however ‘accurate and evidence based’ that appraisal may be. In terms of what makes us human, emotion and feeling seem to me at least to come closest to any form of ‘truth’, even in a world where truth itself is nebulous and constantly changing.
Perhaps my philosophical side is getting the better of me here so suffice to say that I can see my way clear now to making this November’s exhibit an excellent and substantial beginning for a project that has still a long way to go!