‘Suplexing the Black Dog (Over and Over Again)’ is a series of monotype prints for the upcoming exhibition, ‘Artless’ with SPAM Art Collective. Always opting for sculpture in the past few years, it is quite refreshing to return to drawing (with a dab of watercolour) to add a new spin to my practice.
The creation of this series is simply my coming to terms with depression.
It was a subject I would rather have avoided previously as frankly I did not wish to be defined by mental health issues, however there are some things you can’t avoid and facing it head on creatively has helped. Creating a series of drawings/prints reflecting my satirical take on the subject has been rather therapeutic as I have been able to laugh at myself and the situation at hand. Of course depression is a serious matter but recently this is how I have approached the subject and made it something I no longer fear.
Winston Churchill made the term ‘Black Dog’ famous when discussing his battles with depression. The phrase makes the subject more accessible as there is still some apprehension to folk actually saying the word ‘Depression’ in public. For example, I find myself referring to my prescription as my ‘happy pills’, which makes it more comical. I don’t want to be upset by using them as I know that I am making the steps to feeling better. However, being happy and at ease with myself doesn’t come easily and that is where the ‘Black Dog’ comes in. You will have good days and just out of nowhere suddenly there is a dark cloud over your head and there is the dog by your side reminding you of your problem.
What does wrestling have to do with this?
Well frankly being a closet wrestling fan since I was a wee boy (Ultimate Warrior and The Undertaker were my favourites), has led me to fantasising about these over the top, bright and wonderful characters as if it was a comic book brought to life. The dreaded ‘F’ word (…fake) is apparent but who cares, it’s entertainment. Everyone knows it’s all scripted with larger than life story lines but to me it is more like a violent soap that you get invested in as it is ultimately escapism where normal folk can watch two men throw each other through burning tables.
I don’t wish to harp on in the defense of wrestling as an illustration of my fight with depression, but it has significantly shaped my creative practice over the last year. As depression still continues to be a taboo subject, for many men in particular, I want to break down the boundaries through artistic absurdity. By combining the pomp and circumstance of wrestling with a mix of grotesque humour, I have created an ongoing match between myself and the overpowering ‘Black Dog’. Playing the underdog (because why not?) I struggle to keep the opponent at bay, but as the fiery babyface I make the comeback to overwhelm the opponent….or so I hope. There is no end to the series. The match doesn’t end on a pinfall or submission. It is a bout that goes on until the end of time.
You never know, there might eventually be a ‘Loser leaves Town’ match at some point.
Sean Wheelan, 2017.
‘Artless’ by SPAM Art Collective preview night is on Thursday 18th May 2017 (6-9PM) at ‘Hatch’, Belmont Street, Aberdeen.
Exhibition open from 19-21 May 2017 (11am-4pm).