Art in the Library: 10 questions with Companion

Anonymous artist Companion is a queer artist living with Bipolar I disorder who focuses on illustrating the fragility of the human mind and the importance of mental health treatment. Through bizarre scenes and eerie imagery, Companion depicts their disturbing memories as experienced in psychosis. Each painting presented in this exhibition acts as a physical expression of the delusions, paranoia, pain and fear experienced by the artist. 

“For me, there is power in anonymity; power which takes focus off of the ego and onto the piece. When you look at my paintings, you look at thousands of decisions that my mind has made; you are looking into my mind. Hopefully as you get up close and notice the imperfections that I have left behind in each piece, you are able to feel the vulnerability I have given up to share my work with you.” -Companion
You can see Companion’s work Hallucinations; A View into the Psychotic Mind in the Dirac Science Library all of Fall 2023.

  • Tell us about this show – give our readers a brief introduction to the work you are exhibiting with us this semester?
    • This show consists of a collection of paintings that I have worked on with the intent to relay the feelings of paranoia, pain, fear and delusion as I experienced them during a psychotic break. I want to give a glimpse into insanity, and as an artist, I have been gifted with the outlet and opportunity to express this dark period of my life.
  • What is your favorite work in this show? Tell us a little more about the story behind it.
    • My favorite work in the exhibition is the piece titled “Man and Two Voices.” This painting acts as an attempt to visually express the sensation of auditory command hallucinations. The painting depicts a man wrapped in a blanket in a psychiatric facility; the two distinct voices he is hearing are represented through the face and shadow figure on the left side. 
  • Are there themes that pervade your work in general, not limited to the works included in this current exhibition?
    • Fear will pervade my artwork for the rest of my life. I have been creating art my entire life but have always felt seemingly directionless in terms of my style and subject matter. I am drawn towards artworks which are bizarre or unsettling (some of my favorite artists and sources of inspiration include Francis Bacon, Rene Magritte, Francisco Goya, Mark Rothko and Zdzisław Beksiński). Because of this, I create art that attracts similar intrigue. Psychosis, while undoubtedly the worst thing I will ever experience, has gifted me with an endless pool of emotion to pull from.
  • What does your artwork represent about you? What message do you want to send out into the world through your art?
    • My artwork represents the part of my mind that has been forever altered by the experience of psychosis. I plan on continuing this journey of emotional expression. I want to show the world what it is like to forget your own name; to not recognize the person looking back at you in the mirror. 
  • How does your work comment on current social or political issues?
    • Through my art, I hope to bring awareness to and de-stigmatize mental illness, especially severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I also intend to create art that comments on mental health treatment in the United States. A lot of the infrastructure we have in place regarding mental health treatment is severely flawed, and hopefully my works can make an impact on this matter.
  • Do you have any long term goals related to making your artwork?
    • In terms of exposure, long term, I hope to see my artwork being displayed somewhere of great importance. I want to remain anonymous; but I want my art to behave as its own entity, presented for mass consumption. In regard to the actual art making process, I hope that one day I feel that I am closer to expressing what I experienced during psychosis. The paintings on display for this exhibition are only the beginnings of my journey in achieving this goal.
  • How does being a student impact your creative process?
    • I would say that being a student sometimes impedes my creative processes. It can be difficult for me to consistently create artwork and simultaneously be a student living with a disability.
  • Is research part of your art making process? If so, could you give us an idea of what that process is like? Where do you do research before you start making? Are there any specific kinds of information that are critical to your work?
    • I often look for inspiration by looking through works created by my favorite artists which I mentioned earlier. 
  • Do you have a preferred medium to work in?
    • Currently, I have a preference for painting in oils, but I often draw in charcoal, graphite, colored pencil and pen. All of the works in this exhibition are oil paintings, and I expect to continue to work a lot in this medium moving forward.
  • Do you have any social media accounts where people can find you?
    • Not at this time but I want to have something for my work soon! Check back in in a few weeks.

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