Sarah Carpenter is an artist and former eating disorders patient at Maudsley Hospital. She used her artwork as a tool for recovery. She has recently exhibited her work in Maudsley Hospital’s Long Gallery, called ‘Emerging’.
Here she describes her artwork and how it evolved from dealing with bulimia.
‘Emerging’ is a direct reference to my journey so far and where it may lead. It is my first self-portrait series and is special to me as it has allowed me to see my own body objectively and in a more self-compassionate light, something that has become increasingly difficult for women living in the mass media culture of today’s society. I feel lucky to be able to communicate through my work. In my experience, the arts are a great facilitator for opening up lines of communication.
Having spent a long time with so many things on my mind, my recovery has cleared space in my mind and life for more creativity. ‘Emerging’ has been about proactively utilising that energy and in turn keeping up the momentum of my recovery. It allowed me-time to do something that I enjoy and am passionate about as a way of self-soothing.
Through therapy from my eating disorder I began to realise how little I recognised and dealt with my emotions. My artwork has allowed me to really engage instead. On a very basic level, producing these images gave me a positive outlet for my frustrations, emotions and problems. I’ve found escapism as I ‘switch off’ and focus on the process of making the work. This process allows time to pass and emotions to calm meaning I can deal with things from a much calmer place.
A strong aspect of my problem is an innate need to challenge myself and do better. Making ‘Emerging’ helped me realise the interpretive nature of art. Keeping this in sight allowed me to be more positive and reward myself again. My illness can make me feel the need to gain control. Producing the collection allowed me to channel this in a much more constructive and positive manner.
My artwork has not only facilitated non-verbal communication, it has given me the confidence to talk about my eating disorder. This all helps towards reducing stigma surrounding eating disorders which made asking for help initially so difficult for me.
I hope that through this ongoing project, people who have similar experiences may take comfort in this kind of sharing, that it may help the battle to break down stigmas and perhaps even encourage a new audience to the Long Gallery. It is tremendous that I am able to debut the work in the very place that inspired the collection. I passionately feel that what SLaM are doing with the space is a real testament to the healing qualities of art and the role it plays within society, it is an extremely professional and positive gallery space.
Huge thanks for the support provided by the Simon Walker Trust Fund of the Maudsley Charity without whom the exhibition wouldn’t have happened.
The show will run until 27 May with a Private View Friday 4 March 4-8pm at:
The Long Gallery, Maudsley Hospital, Denmark Hill, SE5 8AZ
You can find out more about the show and the long gallery here
You can contact Sarah via: