THE HERALD attended the fantastic show, Compulsion to Paint by Steve Portwood at The VC Gallery on Wednesday (Feb 8).
The work by Mr Portwood coincides with Bi-Polar Awareness Month, and truly is astounding. His work perfectly captures what it feels like to be plagued by depression, with dramatic, thought-provoking pieces of art.
Mr Portwood spoke to The Herald, and explained what his art work meant to him. We were shown a painting entitled Whirlpool, with it’s deep blue colours containing words that describe the feelings that you may have whilst suffering from depression.
Mr Portwood said: “With this piece, I was trying to show that you can feel suffocated in your own misery and pity, and the words tell you what you can feel.”
Next up was a dark piece called Clashing Tornadoes. Mr Portwood said: “This is the other end of the scale. This shows the manic stages of bipolar, when you’re feeling destructive and chaotic.”
Another piece entitled On The Rapids, showed a boat full of men wearing clothing that was suitable for being out on the water. All except one man at the back of the boat, wearing no safety clothing at all, siting with his knees up to his chest.
Mr Portwood explained: “The person at the back is throwing caution to the wind. He is beyond courageous, because he has no fear. It shows the impulsiveness and the recklessness you sometimes feel, because you simply don’t care any more.”
Breaking Chains was a piece that said ‘Live without restraints’, and shows a chain containing all of the words that Mr Portwood associates with depression.
Mr Portwood said: “Breaking Chains is a way of saying don’t let depression hold you back. and don’t let your diagnosis define who you are or stop you from doing the things you want to do.”
The Herald asked Mr Portwood how it felt to see his work on display, and what he hopes to achieve. He said: “I feel proud of what I’ve got. I wasn’t sure it would look as good as it does!
“Art helped me at the time. It helpoed me to keep busy and not let things get on top of me. And, if people like it, that’s great!
“I think the more stuff that’s out there about depression the better educated we are about it. Hopefully people who may have had these feelings before can see that they’re not alone. I hope they can see within the paintings and know they can live without restraints and live a normal life.
“Be yourself, not your illness.”
Barry John MBE, founder of The VC Gallery said: “Steve’s work is very passionate and reflective, and he works with an aim to portray a message, and to destigmatise mental health in the community.
“He paints biographically, but also can turn a hand to all styles of the artistic spectrum. I am confident when I say that Steve is one of the most productive and hard working members of the community at The VC Gallery. His shows are inspiring and a lot of mental health organisations have taken a huge interest in his work.”
Mr Portwood has also received international recognition, and his work will be sent to Italy to go on display in March.