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Kirsty Neilson’s painting is a self-portrait depicting what anxiety looks and feels like.
‘Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in Australia. On average one in every four people will experience it. I have battled with excessive anxiety since I was 15. It was triggered by performing as a pianist and it has carried into my adult life,’ says the Sydney-based artist who studied at the National Art School.
‘For me, anxiety is like having an outer-body experience where logic doesn’t exist and the voice in your head is not your own. I was hung in the Archibald Prize in 2016 with my portrait of Garry McDonald, which depicted his struggle with anxiety and depression. However, it also reflected my own mental health.
‘More recently, my anxiety took me to the point of almost being sick so I forced myself to paint what that looked like. Painting a self-portrait from life was a first for me, but it allowed me to experiment with the physical and mental aspects I was facing, and whilst the experience itself was a struggle, creatively there was an ease in painting it.’