My latest painting

If only 2015 oil on linen mounted on birchwood 84x60cm

If only 2015
oil on linen mounted on birchwood


I’ve finally finished this painting I started more than a year ago. Usually it takes 2-3 months full-time to finish a painting but this one was an exception. Why? Well, I actually came up with the image in my head 2 years ago, and my original concept involved a small sculpture, but the technician I was working with turned out to be very dodgy, so I had to step back and rethink what I should do about it. In the end, I decided to paint. So I began last year, but half way through I came up against a stumbling block and it was emotionally too challenging to continue. You see, this image depicts a very personal moment from my own extreme pain experience. It is of a very distinct moment when I wasn’t sure whether my next thought or action could be rationally trusted – I was almost seriously considering cutting my stomach open with a knife and pulling out whatever was causing so much pain. I was sure I’d be able to see the cause when I did, and I would then get everything out with my fingers so that I would be clear of this harrowing pain. In my mind I was almost convinced that these actions would be less painful than what I had been experiencing.

Pain, especially when it’s severe, is all consuming. It suspends everything else that we are doing. Nothing else seems to matter – the most important and urgent thing you need and want to do at that moment is to deal with the pain. But what do you do when the pain doesn’t go away, no matter what you do? What do you do when painkillers don’t work any more, or they even start to make you feel sicker? What do you do when the doctors tell you there’s nothing else they can do for you?

This painting is about a very dark and desperate moment in my life. I don’t think I am the only person who has thought of something like this before though. I think there are a lot of chronic pain sufferers out there who have been there, or still are, each in their own way. When I make an artwork, I re-live the moment of the concept I want to convey. So as you could well imagine, this was a very difficult painting for me to work on. But it was worthwhile painting it, I feel I needed to do this.

Glad it’s finally finished though!

This article has 6 comments

  1. Your description of separating the body into two parts resonates strongly with me. I’ve often felt the same. I think we somehow need to find a way joining the two parts back to one again. If we can positively visualise that, I wonder what impact it will have to the actual pain experience?

  2. From what I’ve learned from my residency with the pain scientists in SA and NeuRA, and of course with Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia is that it is definitely possible to live a normal life again (although it depends on how you view what’s ‘normal’). According to them, any pain can be managed if done correctly, and once you find out the ‘correct way’, you can lead your life the way you want it. Albeit, it can take a long time for individual sufferers till they find their suitable ‘correct way’, the latest research on chronic pain is extremely exciting, and I’m very hopeful that more people will benefit as the research progresses. Also I think more people are out there advocating the issues of chronic pain, the better – just like you Vanessa, by running your support group. Thanks to the scientists who have helped me to learn about pain, as an artist, I’ll soon be able to apply this knowledge to my artworks more. So I think it is possible, (maybe not your idea of pelvic transplant yet Vanessa… ha!) that people will suffer less from terrible pain for too long. I’m feeling very hopeful about it.

  3. Eugenie and Barbara
    I often joke with my gynae ‘can I just have a pelvic transplant’? The thought being that ‘that area’ just brings so much pain that if it was removed we could get back on with our lives….we can dream it may be possible in the future!

  4. Yes Eugenie, the moment when we’d do anything to get better. When the pain cannot be bigger any more. Enough is enough. I feel like braking into 2 part anyway, a top and a bottom and what is in between is better not to be there…

  5. So Vanessa, you’ve been there too…

  6. Eugenie….goodness I think you have captured that tortured moment in time so incredibly well…that moment when we are at the end of our tether and can’t see a way forward-caught by those 4 walls when you just want to cut that area from upper thighs to mid abdomen out of our bodies to stop the hurting, the pain, the end of living our lives as we know it. It is a very powerful image, but more so for those who suffer with chronic pain.

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