1. The Valley
This piece is to be entered by one person at a time. When you shut the door, it will be dark. Move forward slowly and a light
will come on, by which you will be able to
see the exit.
In “The Valley”, one is alone and in the dark, and seems helpless to find a way out. In the darkness, a light shines and a way out slowly becomes clear.
This echoes my feelings in response to my cancer and its treatment: when I was diagnosed with bowel cancer, my reaction was practical and rational. After being discharged from hospital, with the cancer having been removed, (but with much residual physical weakness) I descended into a deep depression; in the darkness, it was difficult to see a way forward in my situation. In time, I began to feel better, but still felt in the dark and struggling to experience God as I had even when so unwell in hospital .
Psalm 23 in the Bible is known as the Shepherd’s psalm. It talks of God’s looking after His people, giving times of rest & stillness, but also of “the valley of the shadow of death”. To me, “the valley of the shadow of death” is more about the human emotional response to having to face our mortality, than the physical experience of serious illness. When we are in a dark place, it can be difficult to experience God. But in time we are able to see a way out, not denying the darkness, but being glad of the light that slowly banishes it.
This piece was clear in my mind from the very early stages of planning this exhibition. I am grateful to George, exhibition co- ordinator, for making it a reality.
7. Autumn (Mist) Missed
When I went into hospital, the trees had not started to turn; when I was discharged, the leaves had fallen and the weather was cold and dark- I had gone from summer to winter without seeing or experiencing my favourite season.
This resonated with how I felt emotionally- within less than one month, I had gone from working full-time- though very ill and struggling physically- in a small hospital in Pakistan, to being diagnosed with bowel cancer, having various tests to establish how advanced the cancer was, being admitted and having emergency surgery. I had very little time to process my situation and adjust to it emotionally. The complications simply heightened the sense of winter in my being.
This piece was made in stages: the small ceramic leaves were made on a visit to the Bield at Blackruthven in autumn 2003. The felt carpet- which represents autumn’s carpet of leaves- was made during an expressive art group session at the Maggie’s Centre, Dundee, in 2010. During a further visit to the Bield in 2010, I experimented by playing with painting on silk. I simply enjoyed the colours and texture of the fine silk and the paints, and mostly allowed the media to determine the result. I am grateful to George, exhibition co-ordinator, who built the frames from which the pieces are hung.