‘Us and Chem.’: Blondey’s Artistic Revival from Chemical Imbalance

‘Us and Chem.’ is a new collection of artworks by Blondey marking the revival from his darkest days. First exhibited in 2017, the series is now published in his debut art book.

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‘Us and Chem.’ – as in chemical imbalance – is an expression of Blondey’s experience getting sober from prescription drugs. He says, “It’s been much more than ever a compulsion to make this artwork.” So more than just an expression, making the artwork has been integral to his recovery; the artworks themselves are the result of a creative compulsion that was the antidote to his suffering, when he would lock himself indoors wondering what makes life worth getting out of bed.

With grassroots in skateboarding – ditching school to join the counter-cultural skate community at London’s Southbank ­– Blondey became part of a DIY culture that frees young people to express themselves authentically and with originality: to break the mould.

‘Us and Chem.’ confronts issues with the UK’s treatment of mental illness that relies heavily on pharmaceuticals that shut the senses off and deaden the host to what is happening around them.

There are collages of Lorazepam and Sertraline tablets next to everyday objects that we don’t usually pay much attention to – an ashtray, cigarettes, antiques, books, fish food or a vase of dead flowers. Each artwork is a surreal collage of the artefacts that make up the artist’s life, blown out of proportion in the face of his psychic break down manifesting in everyday objects.

The combination of mirrors and windows in this series show the paradox of looking out and looking in. The mirrors show self-reflection while the windows signify looking to the world outside – together they display Blondey’s attempt to find his place in the world around him.

 
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The series features ‘Beautiful, Chemically Imbalanced Painting,’ a collaboration with Damien Hirst that uses the Young British Artist’s technique of spin painting where house paint and acid are poured into a spinning mechanism. Hirst says, “In an artwork you’re always looking for artistic decisions, so an ashtray is perfect. An ashtray has got life and death.” Ashtrays filled with cigarette butts in Blondey’s photomontage represent a kind of creative resurrection from decay, like the myth of the phoenix rising from the ashes.

In turn, the collection addresses an overreliance on prescription drugs in the treatment of mental health on a wider scale. The context of the artworks is the anaesthetised experience of many young people growing up in an accelerating technological world.

 
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Society has changed so much in recent centuries that governmental systems no longer relate to modern times. For example, in 2014 education adviser Sir Ken Robinson said that the UK’s current education system is still modelled on the factory line economy of the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century that values intelligence over creativity, meanwhile twenty-first century kids are growing up in the most intensely stimulating, highly visual period in the history of the world.

In school, students are penalised for getting distracted from standardised curriculums and testing, leading to many young people being diagnosed with ADHD and treated with sedative prescription drugs to calm them down. Robinson says that rather than putting kids to sleep – instead of anaesthetising them – we should be waking them up to what they have inside of themselves through aesthetic experiences, when our senses are operating at their peak.

Blondey used his creative impulse to pull himself out of the worst time of his entire life. ‘Us and Chem.’ is the result of euphoric moments during which the artist feels completely alive. He decided to publish the works to share his experience and inspire young people.

 
 

The book launched on 7 September 2018 at Mark Sullivan Antiques & Decoratives on Cecil Court, Covent Garden where Blondey goes for antiques and cups of tea with the owner.

A Japanese edition is published and will launch in cooperation with twelvebooks on 5 November 2018 at Daikanyama T-Site, Tokyo.

‘Us and Chem.’ is now available to buy for the price of a t-shirt from HENI Publishing, Blondey.com, IDEA and other stockists.

Kirsty Watling