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Drowned, oil on board by Colin Hambrook

painting by Colin Hambrook

It took me a long time to accept that I would never be 'normal'. Like a lot of disabled people, I spent a lot of time wishing it all away. I grew up damaged by experience of psychiatry and scared of mental illness. I was convinced they were out to get me, and changed address an average of 6 times a year for first 15 years of my adult life. Being unsettled has become a habit that's hard to break.

I didn't want to believe I was different from the norm. At the same time I was proud of my sensitivity, no matter how difficult it made being able to function in the world. My life was shot through with out-of-body experiences and hallucinations I daren't tell to anyone - even close friends and family.

Would I have survived if I hadn't had such a strong inclination to be an artist? Making paintings and prints about my experience of visions, hallucinations and dreams, brought me into contact with an emerging Disability Arts. There was a sense of home-coming. It was a world where my images were understood and appreciated, rather than judged or feared. I stopped putting myself on the firing line at Art College interviews and got involved with publishing and promoting Disability Arts, first through Survivors' Poetry and then with DAIL Magazine.

It's a while since I had time and energy for painting and print-making, but I thought I'd contribute a profile with some of the paintings from the Dreams of the Absurd collection I exhibited in various guises in the 1990s.

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