Abstract illustrations, Cerys Knighton

SWWDTP PhD student Cerys Knighton has created an exhibition exploring bipolarity in different spaces – threading between the medical, the domestic, and the natural. The artworks roam and catch in the seams between emotional states, perceptions of reality, sensory hypersensitivity, restoration, and decay, suturing internal structures of the body with external bodies of the natural landscape.

Abstract illustration featuring bird, Cerys Knighton

The largest exhibition of work taken from her PhD to date, this collection analyses nineteenth-century representations of symptoms, diagnostic classifications, changes in treatment, experiences between spaces, as well as present self-reflection from Cerys in dialogue with the histories in her research. Cerys’s PhD thesis analyses archival medical case notes and literary texts to examine the history and representations of manic-depressive illness.

Cerys’s work hopes to create a space for reflection: looking at how representations develop to reflect on present perceptions, and misconceptions, of bipolar illness. Artworks play with poles, boundary lines, doubles, and cycles, to reflect on the complexity of movement between severe states of mood.

Glass cabinet of abstract sculptures by Cerys Knighton

Abstract sculptures by Cerys Knighton

Working on this exhibition has been a wonderful experience. Creating artwork from my PhD research has been a useful tool for working through ideas, and I hope will be an effective way of creating engagement with the research. The artwork draws from both research into the nineteenth century and current experiences of bipolar disorder. I hope this dialogue between past and present encourages reflection on social attitudes towards bipolarity. Cerys Knighton, PhD Researcher, SWWDTP

Detail of glass cabinet with abstract sculpture by Cerys Knighton

Abstract sculpture by Cerys Knighton

Now that I am in my third year, the artwork in this exhibition has been created throughout my PhD, so selecting the work has been useful both in terms of thinking about curation, and in terms of reflecting on my chapters and thinking across my thesis. Representations both inside and outside of the hospital space are key to my PhD. I focus primarily on Wales and the Scottish Highlands and Islands in an analysis of both medical and literary texts, examining systems of care in the domestic space, isolation in the natural landscape, and developments in treatment in the institutional space. Present experiences depicted are also especially concerned with space in this exhibition, drawing from my own experiences of managing bipolar disorder through the lockdown periods. Cerys Knighton, PhD Researcher, SWWDTP

Visit the online exhibition

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