Cherish Marshall: Exploring the Subject of Vulnerability and Mental Illness

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Unbalanced 2016 | Oil on canvas | 51 x 78 cm | £850

Focus talks with Cherish Marshall, a contemporary British painter exploring the subject of vulnerability and mental illness. 

When did you realise you wanted to be an artist?

I was talking to an old friend of mine about this, she wanted to be a zookeeper and she works with children now, so that worked out. I wanted to be an artist at age four and it stuck with me ever since.

Why do you choose to paint?

I’ve always painted, I love drawing as well, but I think paintings have this element of magic where you can have all of these separate colours and when you combine them they turn into something brand new. Painting is something that each person takes on board in a different way, some decide to make landscapes, some choose portraits and even within those portraits, they are all different between each person. That’s what fascinates me with paint.

Explain how the theme of vulnerability feeds into your work.

Due to personal experiences I started delving into it. I looked into the way that as a society we hide ourselves, it can appear that we are not really allowed to be sad or upset, which can make us more venerable. That’s why I want to show it loud and proud, whilst being sensitive to the subject.

I can see that, especially in the time of social media, do you think that feeds into only sharing the good side of life and hiding the bad?

Well you just put your best things on social media don’t you, you’re not going to put a picture of you when you are feeling low. Social media can be a platform to express new ideas and other ways of looking at the world, but it can also make it very narrow.

I Mourn to Heal

How do you think that showing vulnerability demonstrates strength?

We grow from it. Saying to someone that you are feeling bad doesn’t make you weak. It allows you to realise that we have more in common than we think, and shows you are confident enough to be aware of yourself. If you hide it, it eats you up inside.

Who are the subjects within your paintings?

Some are of my close friends, some of which who have their own stories. My favourite painting is ‘I morn to Heal’ my friend who is such a beautiful soul was unfortunately attacked and this really broke her inside. She had to carry on with her life as if nothing had happened. It’s not the highest profile people that I paint, but they are people whose stories I have heard.

And so why do you crumple your canvas?

The reason I did that, is because I looked at them stretched and they didn’t have that element of vulnerability, they were too strong, so by taking them off their stretchers and making the artwork have its own vulnerable state it really enhances what I am trying to say.

Unmasked man, 2015 | Oil on canvas | 54 x 54 cm | £600

There are so many types of vulnerable people: the poor, the mentally unstable, refugees, is there a certain vulnerability which you seek to express?

My main interest in mental health, my mum has a mental illness and I grew up trying to understand it. I guess whether it is refugees or children, experiences can lead to a mind set which is lost or broken, and this can lead to mental issues. It can be this little seed which grows into this massive problem. That’s what I like to explore, because there is so much of it around us.

Do you think the process of creating helps you come to terms with the subject?

It is very therapeutic to me, I have had some people who do not get it, and some people do. With the friend I mentioned earlier, when I explained why I wanted to paint her and then showed her the work, she was happy. Whilst art has always been a personal thing it is nice that it did become bring a little joy to someone else.

Cherish will be exhibiting her paintings in The Spring Collection this February 28th - 4th March at the Menier Gallery.