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> > > Paul Cade: Sanity for Vanity

Colin Hambrook recently saw Paul Cade's breathtaking work and decided to visit the artist in person.

sanity 4 vanity Photographer Ophelia Wynne

Sanity 4 Vanity

Image: Photographer Ophelia Wynne

Paul Cade is a visionary artist. I know that's a term which has been over-used - perhaps because of the vagueness of our understanding of what it means to have visions - and definitely because of the number of artists playing up the intent behind what they create. The word is more specific for me as a disabled person. It's one up from hallucinatory - because where hallucinations are a direct result of the mind creating images, as are dreams - visions come from somewhere else.

Paul created Sanity for Vanity as a result of a vision. When he told me the story I was touched by its comical elements in a situation where he had been fighting not for life - but death - after a psychotic episode induced by the prescription of interferon - a drug given to allay the bodies production of cancerous white blood cells.

He was coming closer to his inner thoughts and feelings after several days of fasting and meditation. In his head he said I am lost God. What can I do? The response he got was: Get a mannikin and cover it in needles. Cheekily he thought he'd be a bit more specific. Where can I find the manikin? he asked. In Chadds Department Store in Lowestoft, came the reply.

He thanked God and when he got back home he went into town to the old fashioned department store. A slightly scared but not unsympathetic woman at the counter told him he'd be welcome to borrow a manniquin, but he couldn't cover it with needles. The voice in spirit came to his aid: I'm Kevin from curtains. Come and see me on the 5th floor. When Paul found Kevin, sure enough the mannikin was waiting for him in storage.

The sculpture has been exhibited in Phoenix Art Gallery and Sussex Beacons window, both in Brighton. It touches people for different reasons. It has both erotic and horrific qualities. One of the entries in the comments book summed it up: Beautiful and cruel - just like life.

Paul says: Making Sanity for Vanity was about coming to terms with the diagnosis. It made me realize that I had a journey to make as an artist. There is something valuable in communicating artistically what I am going through - for myself and others. There is such a stigma attached to death and dying. I want to concentrate on the positive aspects of our understanding of death.

Paul has made various sculptures of the grim reaper using light and humour. Disco death was a sculpture of the grim reaper with a mirror ball for a head. I'm attempting to bring light into death - to describe the way that death can bring you closer to existence.

Earlier this year Paul went on an Innovate course for disabled artists, run by Dada-South - the Disability and Deaf Arts Development Agency in the South East. It changed his life. Like many disabled artists he hadn't realized he could apply for Arts Council funding. As a result he has applied for a grant for his next project Light Being. This involves a body cast of a figure in a meditation posture. Fibre optic lights will show through holes in the figure to create an aura that will shimmer or pulsate.

When Antony Gormley made his body casts he saw it as a meditative experience. He used the opportunity to go into himself and look into the depths of the soul. I want to allow the human spirit to reflect in my work - in its intricacy and labour-intensiveness. It takes dedication and determination, which has in turn helped me to understand myself and come to grips with my situation.

Part of my application package has involved asking for a mentor. I've not been through the Arts School route, so it will be good to get some professional advice on moving the work forward. My plan is to get the piece ready for exhibition by May 2005. The Phoenix may well be interested - so you may see it there.