Having undergone a lengthy treatment for clinical depression and bipolar disorder, I have come to realize – through first-hand experience... Read More
Having undergone a lengthy treatment for clinical depression and bipolar disorder, I have come to realize – through first-hand experience – that, contrary to popular misconception, mental illness does not foster creativity. Quite the opposite, it renders you helpless, draining your energy and taking up all the time you could have otherwise spent on artistic endeavours.
With barren dark months behind me, I have focused on the transformations an artist’s work and personality endure because of illness. It is my goal to break down the misleading romantic link between mental disorders and talent and productivity, a connection that has been the bane of creative individuals for centuries.
Researchers have long ago come to a conclusion that mental illness is neither necessary nor sufficient for creativity. And this is something I am out to prove with my work as I also explore themes such as in-between states, physical and psychological limitations, fear, isolation and death.
Staying faithful to photography as my principal medium, I never stop looking for ways to push its boundaries and transcend the two-dimensional image that I see as a starting point for further experiments and the centre of my installations.
Depression is a common illness worldwide, with an estimated 3.8% of the population affected, including 5% of adults and 5.7% of adults over 60. Many of the artists whose work we so admire were haunted by depression, anxiety, and mania.
Mental illness, Dr. Rothenberg has found in his research, tends to “restrict true expansion and creativity,” rather than make it possible. “Creativity is not related to mental illness at all, and artists have suffered from this conception of them” (Edward, Gille and Rose-Marie De Massy, 1960).
The World Health Organization considers depression the leading cause of disability in the world. In one study it was found that 65% of patients suffering from depression rated their condition as severely disabling. Despite the heavy burden of depression on both patients and society, many patients with depression are currently untreated.
In November 2019, I went to the hospital for nervous diseases and was diagnosed with clinical depression. In October 2020, when I was already under the close scrutiny of doctors and was taking many serious medications, an exhibition opened at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, where my work was one of the central pieces. By this time, I was already a promising young artist who had graduated with Distinction from the Foundation in Central Saint Martins, had publications in magazines specialising in art, lived for a month in an art residence in China and took part in exhibitions in London, Bath, Italy and Moscow.
The exhibition at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art was the last for me before being struck by the disease, and at that time I already had difficulty moving around and was spending most of the time in bed. For the next year and a half of treatment for clinical depression and bipolar disorder, I spent in bed, often unable to even take a shower for several days. For me, as an artist, these years of illness became an absolute tragedy - I lost interest in everything, including life, and I had no strength for any projects and movements. However, after a year and a half I was more stable, and decided to reflect on this particular period of my life in order to explore it. Did I, as an artist, create ‘nothing’ during this time? How did the lack of physical and mental strength affect my artistic movement? I wanted to explore the imaginary ‘romanticisation’ of the impact of mental illness on the artist's work, and look at the situation openly and honestly - what remains when a person is almost unable to live?
First of all, I want to take a closer look at the concept of ‘Nothing’ and determine what it is and how it is relevant to the creative process - how can it be interpreted in relation to my situation? A large and important place in the work is devoted to analysing what depression is from a physiological point of view. It is very important to understand, especially in this context, why this is a physically difficult condition, and how it becomes (and stops) processes of thought and creativity. In the last chapter, I discuss some of the major works from this biennium that were exhibited and received feedback.