Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo

Vertigo, acrylic, charcoal and oil on masonite, 115 x 85 cm

Wanted to do a larger study but in the end was only up to this sketch, exploring the disorienting sense of vertigo.

Attacks of vertigo seem to accompany times of stress and i guess lately i've been rather stressed. You move your head and scenery keeps moving on. The brain has to pull the world back into position. You look down to grab a brush and look back up at the canvas but now the canvas is floating up towards the ceiling.

It feels a bit like the giddiness and staggering walk one knew in childhood after spinning round on the spot. The pavement moves under one's feet as if walking a rolling deck aboard ship. The feet seem to step off into thin air as the brain races to re-calculate spacial orientation. You would think walking in a confined space would help it to do that but it seems the opposite is the case.

Walking in crowded subway or the London tube is bad, real bad. The tunnels appear to twist and sway like walking inside a serpent. Jonah down the Piccadilly line. The rush-hour press of people flooding past adds to the disorientation. Mind the gap. Yes, really mind it because it feels so close even when one is hugging the wall.

Best be out on an empty beach, eyes fixed on a far horizon, a bright sun in the sky, head held high, striding with determined step, and some hope in the heart.

Well, at least i got as far as the studio.


  1. Good Morning Harry,
    This is a truly amazing, expressive and brilliant painting. I tried a similar approach, probably a couple of months ago, but failed completely. Multiple images are tough for me to take from imagination to the canvas. Your imagination, on the other hand, along with your reality and abundant expressive abilities have coalesced into a magnificent painting. It's a completely effective statement of how you feel and how your life is now, as well as, being a beautiful thing to look at.
    I'll stop now as I'm afraid my envy is showing. So, Harry, here are three boisterous huzzahs, along with a triple BRAVO!
    Finally, will you be heading out for that tropical beach recuperation site any time soon? I'm sure we'd all love to see what you would do under the influence of sand and sea.
    Get Well and Stay Well,

  2. You've captured the disorientation and sense of "falling" into space with this painting. I wish you the best!

  3. Harry, eres realmente bueno expresándonos tus sensaciones y tus emociones. Casi puedo sentir ese vértigo tal como lo cuentas. También admiro tu fuerza para superar los problemas, problemas que paradójicamente te han servido de inspiración en tu arte.
    Me gusta mucho este "boceto", tanto en su concepción como en su ejecución. Siempre me admira el uso combinado de diferentes técnicas.

  4. Hi Gary. Thanks for your enthusiastic response to my fumbling about. I'm afraid it possesses little of the depth of attention and consummate skill of your wonderful portrait of me. Maybe there is just something slap-dash about me that wants to get the whole messy business of life behind me, lol.

    The beach i'm heading to this time next week is, alas, not in the tropics (I have drooled over your Hawaii photos). It's in a place called Sorrento (www.travelpod.com/photos/0/Australia/Sorrento.html). It's only for four days and they are booked up with wining and dining with friends rather than long solitary beach rambles. I already know that that salty restaurant diet and red wine will make the vertigo worse. So you see, it's all self-inflicted for the sake of art, haha.

  5. Gracias, Manel, por sus comentarios alentadores. Me temo que mi trabajo no tiene la observación cuidadosa y la concentración que admiro tanto en su trabajo. Mi excusa es que trato de ser expresiva de la pintura lo que sé por experiencia personal, haha.

  6. Laura, you make me blush! But i love it, haha.

  7. Bravo Harry!
    this work is fantastic!
    very good aesthetically, needs no explain ...
    but you wisely portrayed a symptom, one way
    so sincere and touching, which resulted in a clean and beautiful work!
    a huge hug!

  8. Such a beautiful work. I think you've captured the phenomenon spot on. I've had it happen while driving and had to pull over until it passed. If I had a visual map, this would do it perfectly.
    You are a tremendous artist and I always enjoy seeing your work. Thank you.

  9. Harry, this work is so evocative, so true a rendering of the sensation of vertigo, not just how it affects the body, but the mind. None of us wants to think of the mind and body so out of synch that the system of signals conveying the simple information of how one occupies and moves through space cannot be trusted, must be subjected to a kind of "manual override" when it plays one false. One takes for granted that the brain will never lie to its owner! I do hope you make progress in managing your symptoms. You have such a strong mind and spirit, I trust you can and will. All the best to you.

  10. Harry, All I could think was "What the hell" when I read these recent posts. Thanks so much for your honesty about how things are going at this moment. I feel angry about your illness, like it was my own. Frustrated that someone with so much talent, innate and acquired, is faced with such a huge challenge. Shit. Just wrong. But the beauty in this is that somehow you keep producing these mind-blowing images that excite and elicit jealousy in me all at the same time. You overcome, even though I know it take tremendous concentration and effort. Sincerely, Harry, your work is astounding, something to strive towards. Don't waste your energy on a response. Please spend it on your art. I insist. Best. Candace.

  11. Good grief! I hope you start feeling better soon. I've had several friends with this condition and it seems rather awful.

    One of my friends was helped by the doctor who seemed to do some exercises or manipulations of her head position.

  12. me gusta muchísimo !!
    por el equilibrio entre figuras y fondo.
    por los colores escogidos.
    por las expresiones de las caras...
    una composición estupenda !!!!

  13. you really nailed this one. Looks amazing... hope you're feeling better soon.

  14. You nailed vertigo with words and painting--so much like staggering after childhood spinning. The combination of rush hour and vertigo would be awful. We're happy when you make it to the studio.

  15. Dear Harry ,the more we suffer the best we paint , isn't it ?
    Great studio !
    I do hope U can be better !
    A big hug

  16. Your painting describes visually just what you described in words...it is "spot on"!

  17. Hello Harry,

    I already commented on Flickr on this amazing portrait. I just now read your explanation and also your previous post about why you have been absent for a while. Reading this gives the portrait a new dimension, not just being interesting and colourful work of art, but a documentation of your physical and psychological well-being. I was sad to read all this. I hope you'll feel well very soon and wish you all the best!

  18. This incredible painting says it all Harry! Please de-stress very soon and keep away from the Piccadilly line (both real and imagined)

  19. Hi Pamo. Thanks for the kind comments. I did enjoy your account your basement flood and the need to change routine, letting in light and fresh air. I took it as a metaphor for work on my own mental basement, lol.

  20. Well expressed, Gabriella. I know from experience that the brain does lie to its owner. That marrow-level knowledge informs my art. The world we have each constructed in our heads is just that - a construct.

    If we are lucky, there are no quakes or tsunamis in lives and we can grow into complacent old conservatives secure in our smug conviction of just how life should be ordered for us and everyone else.

    But those touched by a stroke or mental illness or head trauma or dementia or even just a raging fever or drug-induced fugue know how precarious is the the hose of cards we each inhabit.

  21. Thanks for the outrage on my behalf, Candace. You are a pal. But there is a part of me that feels this is karma.

    For decades my mum complained of vertigo and not only did i give her very little understanding and support, but in my brashness was even irritated at times when she complained of a 'turn'. Well, now it's my turn to cope. Fair cop.

    And if nothing else, it teaches me to live one day at a time, and to be grateful for the lucid times when the sun shines and pavement stays in place. Just the small pleasures can come to mean so much.

  22. Thanks Marian. I expect your friend was given the Epley Maneuver which works in 80% of cases. Unfortunately mine wasn't one of them. Recently my specialist increased my dose of Serc and that has helped. Just over the last week life has returned to a much more even keel. Thanks for your concern.

  23. Gracias Mercè. Es sólo un boceto, pero yo estaba contento con cómo quedó.

  24. Thanks Kristin, Yep, i'm definitely on the mend.

    Hi Hallie. Thanks for your understanding. Though if i will insist on being a tourist and venturing into the rush hour subway, i have only myself to blame, lol.

  25. Marialuisa, how true! Suffering is the mother of so much of the arts. It gives us something important to say, something compelling to report about the human condition. Certainly that is so in my case.

    Though i don't forget the the sublime and joy are also wellsprings of so much of the arts.

    A rounded life, like a fine painting, has both deep darks and shimmering highlights.

  26. Thanks Celeste. I must say catching up on your discoveries and adventures on FB is a lovely antedote and tonic though.

  27. Hi Rodney. Thanks for making the effort to to follow link here from Art Informel in Flickr. And for your most generous and encouraging comments, and your good wishes.

  28. Haha, thanks Liz. Actually, i'll be back on the Piccadily line in a few months with a return trip to London. Very optimistic this time round it'll be much better.

  29. Hello Harry,
    This is a good job,
    You could really express the feeling of vertigo!
    Congratulations, my friend!
    Big hug

  30. Congratulations on getting back to the studio! I was curious as why you had not been posting. I glad your surgery went well and you are on the mend. Will continue to watch for your posts on my blog list.

  31. hey Harry, that is a very unique piece of art and aptly protrays vertigo... it is a strength of human nature that we can take what is thrown at us and turn it into an art: in your case in paint and words.

  32. Dear Harry,
    this great painting catches everything you describe in words. And even more, i can feel the painting. Like Laura said, yes you're a Master for sure.

    I hope you are feeling better now or real soon.
    Take care my friend!
    Sweet greetz, Monica