A 25-year-old artist from Porthcawl is hoping her solo exhibition can raise awareness of the misconceptions surrounding bipolar disorder: ‘Bipolarity’ is part-way through a five-week run at The Gate Art Gallery in Cardiff. Pointillist artist and medical humanities PhD student Cerys Knighton draws from her experiences of living with bipolar disorder since childhood. Cerys’s artwork also explores her PhD research, funded by the South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership, which examines how manic-depressive illness became a diagnostic category.
Supported by Disability Arts Cymru, who create opportunities for people living with disabilities and long-term mental health conditions to develop their skills in the arts, Cerys finds creating artwork invaluable to the day to day management of her mental ill health. Her artwork toys with human and animal anatomy through pointillism, a technique in which thousands of individual ink dots are delicately layered to build-up textures and images. ‘Bipolarity’ features 43 pieces of Cerys’s freehand artwork, as well as a video which shows the pointillism drawing process across a number of her pieces.
Cerys’s artwork uses her research to reflect on current social attitudes towards bipolarity, and to encourage discussions about the reality of living with this long-term mental illness. Cerys said: ‘By using familiar signifiers from the world around us, and exploring the divide between organic and inorganic, I want my artwork to challenge the viewer’s perspective and provoke discussion about social perceptions of mental ill health, uncovering the different realities lurking beneath statements of “I’m fine”’.
An illness surrounded by stigma, this exhibition tackles misconceptions. Those unfamiliar with bipolar are often surprised to learn about the scope of symptoms, from cognitive dysfunction, to hallucination, to sensory overload. The artworks range from depicting individual symptoms, to analysing developments in medical treatment from the nineteenth century onwards, to challenging the language of polarisation.
An open evening will be held on the 11th of July from 6-9pm during which Cerys will give a talk about her artwork, tying it to her research as well as her own lived experience. Cerys will also be hosting a pointillism workshop on the 17th of July from 2-3pm, where participants can use either outlines drawn by Cerys or begin drawings from scratch to try out the technique of pointillism. During the workshop, Cerys will discuss how beneficial beginning to draw again three years ago has been for her – particularly finding the technique of pointillism – in living with bipolar disorder.