Spike Blackhurst - Sculptor

Against All Odds

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The signs of emotional abuse are often an abstract notion captured in word format. I needed to expose the actuality via a visual and emotional understanding.

The connecting of two extremes of material and firing them together was believed by many to be against the odds. However, through extensive research and experiments, I was able to achieve such results. The sculptures survived the construction process and kiln firing processes to deliver pioneering and emotional outcomes.

As a survivor of emotional abuse, I too have an understanding what it takes against all odds to emerge and regain self-belief, to connect with others in telling my story, but most of all to spread awareness and encourage others to escape such horrid situations.

As an artist the creative process has been cathartic in my recovery process and has encouraged others to openly tell their journey or share their pain when viewing my sculptures.

The taboo exists of humans being seen as victims or weak for sharing their vulnerability. I wholeheartedly disagree! Vulnerability can often be our biggest strength, shared with the right audience. We all have the ability of intuition and I have felt this grow stronger as this became more aware and believed in.

The more we share our stories, the human understanding and empathy can grow, as emotional abuse is much more common and hidden than one can ever imagine.

All my research, experiments and documentation over the last three years of my MA and in association with this work can be found on www.drspikenstein.wordpress.com

To view larger versions of image please just click on them

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Mind Control Ceramic & Steel. 188cm x 33cm x 33cm (Brain 20cm x 18cm x 15cm)

I pierced fishing hooks into certain areas of the brain to depict how trauma is difficult to remove once it embeds itself, which then leads on to self-doubt and susceptibility to triggers. The difficult removal that fishing hooks are associated with simply adds to the raw damage when recovering from such devastating mind control. A quick cutting of the wires would only resemble the feeling of obliteration and continued embedded pain.

My brain suspension frame is modelled on external fixation frames (used in the medical profession for stabilising breaks and fractures of bones) of which I have adapted the design and then forged myself. This is my comment on the mind’s fragility and vulnerability whilst also being held by such savage tension.

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Voice Ceramics & Steel. 13cm x 14cm x 14cm

The stabbing of steel nails into the thyroid is to emphasise the impact that abuse has on our voice. It is proven in some cases of abuse and trauma it can cause the thyroid to become dysfunctional, which may result in the individual bound to a lifetime of daily medication in order to live. Not being heard, talked over, and even be talked on behalf of by their abuser is all connected with the damage to the voice. Silenced and afraid to speak out becomes the reality after being subjected to repeated verbal attacks.

I carefully chose my glaze to illustrate a state of decay and broken surface appearance. When light is shone onto the same surface it sparkles like diamonds, thus adding beauty to the grotesque - I believe all parts of our body need to be loved, especially the injured parts.

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Love Ceramics & Steel. 148cm x 56cm x 34cm (Heart 32cm 18cm x 15cm)

Choosing to escape an abusive relationship when love is the main connection, and to sever ‘loves main artery’ can be the most difficult action possible. Once that relationship finishes the heart can often feel like it has been broken or shattered into many pieces. My process of attaching pieces of the heart back together with metal staples reinforces the idea that we are not completely broken but loose at the seams. I wanted to suggest the marking of history, like that of scar tissue being left behind once a wound has healed.

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Anxiety Ceramics & Steel. 72cm x 36cm x 25cm

When I feel anxiety it’s like my lungs are being crushed and breathing is at limited capacity, this feeling of tension and stress stiffens my bones.

I focused on showing the feeling of anxiety by creating the spine with an articulated rib cage, allowing me to restrain the lungs even more by the rib’s inward movement, which when digging into the lungs creates a tighter hold. I also suspended my sculpture with wire from the top of the spine and weighed it down from the bottom of the spine to add to the importance of tension for this sculpture. I used a naked Raku firing technique to produce a crumbling surface appearance for the lungs and left the metal skeletal structure in its raw forged state to add to the unsettling state of anxiety

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Intuition Steel. 74cm x 37cm x 26cm

This sculpture is forged entirely from steel to demonstrate the strength we have inside of us. With the gut often named ‘the second brain’ or ‘the voice to listen too’, it translates as our intuition. The positive decision I made when acting on my intuition is what helped me escape an abusive relationship. So, I honour this organ by leaving the sculpture with a polished steel surface and creating a larger-than-life interpretation of the gut.

When viewing all these sculptures in a line, one behind the other, a body of trauma can be read and understood visually rather than an abstract notion that’s written or verbally described. This has already brought awareness and understanding to those who needed to be understood or listened to, and for those to understand or empathise with the pain suffered by abusive individuals.