' With each new piece I can spend days , weeks and months contemplating my life and gain insight from even the tiniest nuance . I ’ m getting to know me and learning to find comfort in my vulnerabilities as well as my strengths .’
handful of therapeutic prisons in our country . This particular environment differs in many ways from the rest of the British penal system , the most prominent of which is that there is an actual desire to help men address their issues . Not just the criminal values they might hold , or the offending behaviours they may present , but assisting them to delve into their whole history and supporting them throughout the whole sodding mess .
I don ’ t have the space to write anything in depth on the subject , but it ’ s safe to say I feel like one of the lucky ones to have been afforded the opportunity of looking at my life and knowing I don ’ t have to be just a faceless number , warehoused in some dilapidated , festering , Victorian cesspit of a jail and waiting for the day the authorities tell us they ’ ve had their pound of flesh and we can now go free . Free from what , I ask ? The steel doors that I ’ ve spent the vast majority of my life behind ? This place offers me the chance to achieve real freedom . To find the peace and serenity I ’ ve longed for throughout my miserable existence .
As I said earlier , this establishment differs greatly from mainstream jails . I ’ ve always had an interest in art , although I came to painting very late on in life and I often found myself with pencil or pen in hand during my incarcerated years . Sadly , however , the focus on the therapeutic value of art in prison has diminished significantly over the past couple of decades , and these days you ’ d be lucky to find a canvas and a brush available . Not so here – we ’ re funded by an outside trust that not only encourages us to express what is prominent in our lives but also offers assistance via an artist in residence . We also have a forward-thinking governor who championed my desire to create an anonymous website accompanied by a monthly blog in order to share my thoughts and images .
Art has become an integral part of my journey of recovery . It offers solace in times of turmoil and affords me the opportunity to reflect upon who I am , where I ’ ve been , and where I ’ m heading . I ’ m often asked , ‘ why don ’ t you paint something happy ?’ Yet despite the morose nature of most of my work it actually does make me happy . I ask questions of myself in those paintings that I wouldn ’ t have previously dared to , let alone understood .
With each new piece I can spend days , weeks and months contemplating my life and gain insight from
Acrylics : Far left – At Odds Left – Anonymity # 2 … Covid Times Top – You ' re Looking At The Problem
even the tiniest nuance . I ’ m getting to know me and learning to find comfort in my vulnerabilities as well as my strengths . My whole life has seen me raging at the world and pointing the finger of blame . The painting You ’ re Looking at the Problem is a true account of one individual ’ s intervention in my life – he had placed a scrap of paper under my mirror one day with those words scrawled upon it . Today I see those words clearly and I am the problem . I ’ m also the solution .
The second of the paintings I ’ ve chosen to share with you is Anonymity . As COVID struck , our establishment along with everywhere else went into full lockdown . We returned to 23 hours of isolation which was exactly how it used to be for me in the early years of my sentence . We had become the forgotten once again , and even when restrictions began to lift ours were only alleviated by an extra hour . For 16 months we ’ ve endured 22 hours of bang up . It was one of the most testing times of my life , as I had to fight my old behavioural demons on a daily basis . I had some failures and some success , but I had my art work to keep me company throughout .
The final piece , At Odds , is my favourite painting of the last couple of years . A decade of intense bitterness at my plight had seen me become a twisted soul where nothing ever made sense and I only felt pain . I now find myself in an environment of intense scrutiny where even the minutia of my behaviour found its way under the microscope of analysis and often left me at odds . As the years go by , I find myself feeling more at ease with my paintings and sharing my truth . The truth really does set you free and to that end I will wish you all good fortune on your own journey . For my wonderful partner , I would like to thank you for all your help and endless support .
To see more of the artwork or read the monthly blog visit steeldoorstudios . com , Twitter @ SteelDoorStudi1 or Instagram @ steeldoorstudios .
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