Artist Spotlight: In Conversation With Demi Blundell
From A Conversation Between Two Braincells, Demi Blundell, 2021
Art focusing on mental health is not a new or unusual topic for artists to delve into. As long as there have been artists, there has been art on mental health. The two sit in harmony together. This harmony is often, however, one of tragedy. Artists often look to the bleakness of suffering and dive in headfirst, their identities closely tied to their pain.
That is why Demi Blundell’s art is so poignant. The collage artist, freshly graduated from University of the Arts London, shifts the focus from the suffering to the self-care. An explosion of pink covers the screen, telling the viewer ‘Hey, it’s okay to feel like this’. Blundell’s artistic journey sits within the chaos of recovery, but instead of harbouring it, Blundell makes her experience approachable, understandable and a safe space. In her interview with Fever Dream Zine, Blundell discusses the act of self-care within art, her visual diaries, and how art can be a source of self-expression and healing.
What originally drew you to the process of making collages?
I started experimenting with collage when I was about sixteen, as a way of exploring how I experienced gender and femininity, after looking at Hannah Höch’s “Around a red mouth”. I think the physicalness of re-assembling images to figure something out about a part of your identity, or to help piece something together that you’re grappling with, really landed for me and is something I have continued to utilise throughout my creative journey.
Your collages feel like intimate journal entries. When you create these collages, is there a plan behind them, or do you create them out of sporadic feelings instead?
It’s funny because I really wish that I was ‘good’ at writing-based journaling, as it has been suggested to me so many times as a healthy, cathartic emotional release, however I just can’t hack it with text alone! A lot of my collages begin as attempted journal entries in moments of intense or unpleasant emotion, often with a thought or a few words that inspire the initial theme of the pieces. Having that initial indication of what I am feeling then allows me to just let loose and springboard into exploring it visually. I have a box under my bed full of magazines (one of my most prized possessions) which I then frantically flick through until I find part of an image that resonates, and then just go for it - I also think when there is both text and image it can sometimes help to articulate what you are trying to express, as they almost support each other in a way.
From Processing, Demi Blundell, 2023
Your visual exploration piece Processing balances a pink, minimal aesthetic with the chaotic reality of recovering from an eating disorder and mental illness. What made you want to document this reality in such a soft way?
The juxtaposition of the softness of the pink and minimalism versus the raw and messy reality of eating disorder recovery is something that in all honestly was initially used as a way of making the creation of this work more tolerable and accessible to myself. I was feeling so much darkness inside that I found it so deeply uncomfortable, that the thought of putting more darkness onto paper just made me unmotivated and reluctant to start something that I knew would help me in the long run. As I continued Processing, I also began to realize the importance of making my work approachable for others if I was planning to share it with an audience, especially an audience which may resonate with what I was exploring – and I hope that the softness of the colours, imagery and diaristic writing contributes to that.
Your work emphasizes the importance of self-care and recovery in a brightly colored universe - you are, in a way, rebelling against so much art that focusses on the darkness of mental illness. Was it difficult to find a voice for your art when you first began creating these self-care pieces?
Especially in art exploring eating disorders, I do often find that a lot of pieces are very dark, whether that is aesthetically or thematically. So, I initially did find it difficult to share my work in fear of the pieces not being understood; being anxious that people may find them silly or not taking the exploration of mental health through art seriously. However, I now realize the value of doing so, as per my lovely therapist’s advice to ‘stay in my own lane’ in the context of recovery; it has become obvious that I also need to do so in my creative practice, as it is mine to explore, express and experience!
From Processing, Demi Blundell, 2023
What inspires the aesthetic of your work?
I am obsessed with David Shrigley and his text-based pieces, I think that they are so funny and frank – both his humor, and handwritten text definitely inspired the aesthetic and content of my work. Tracey Emin was another inspiration with her drawing and text-based pieces. My bedroom is also decorated with lots of pink accessories, and is like my little safe space, so I suppose that my collages also reflect that too.
Finally, what would you tell people who are beginning their journey of using art as a form of self-care?
First of all, you are very cool, welcome to the club! And secondly, to just go for it and do whatever feels good to you - it honestly doesn’t matter what your art looks like, as long as you get from it what you need!