Diary of a Carer
This work is inspired by the artist’s own experience as a carer for a family member diagnosed with mental illness.
Often overlooked, carers face severe mental health problems when trying to cope with their caregiving responsibilities. Emotional distress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms are just a few of the mental health problems the artist herself has experienced while caring for her family member.
Focusing on what it means to be a sole caregiver, ‘Diary of a Carer’ came about during the artist’s attempt to deal with her responsibilities and the impact they had on her mental health.
By looking within, Chitan chose landscape and the natural world as tools to express the inexpressible: her own poor mental health.
She experimented with the interaction between the materiality of the printed photograph and that of the natural world. In that sense, she realised that if landscape and the natural world are territory, it might be said that the flat surface of the printed photograph is also territory, with edges and borders, both physical and metaphorical. By identifying this commonality between the two worlds, it became obvious that the image can become a space to be re-negotiated, a ‘land’ that can be interfered with, that can be open to intervention. A place where the natural world, in its physical expression such as branches and tree barks, can spill out of the frame, similar to the overflowing feelings of anxiety that she had to cope with as a carer.
For this project, the artist also experimented with printing on different materials, turning to textile as medium. Felt, and the extended meaning it offered, opened up a new way of communicating her intentions. Drawn to the protective qualities of this ‘anti-fabric’, as Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari called it, Chitan also looked at the muffling characteristics of felt. These were important as they relate to the idea of being heard as a person dealing with psychiatric crises of an adult relative, where their loved ones become a priority, and the carer recedes into the background, becoming ‘unseen’.
Inspired by the work of French-American artist Louise Bourgeois, Chitan also explored the reparative power of the needle. She took up the needle and thread in an attempt to create a version of herself that could express how burdensome it is caring for a relative with severe mental illness, requiring significant personal, financial, and emotional resources, often with no recognition or support. With gestures such as sowing around the mouth and around the eyes with red thread, she wanted draw attention to the family carers’ experience, perspective and needs during an emergency mental health crisis.