Still Alive – an artist’s experience of cancer treatment during the pandemic

The emotional rollercoaster of undergoing breast cancer treatment during the pandemic – from diagnosis to all clear – is the essence of a new exhibition by Julie Hollis.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 6th May 2022, 7:19 pm
Artist Julie Hollis from Kirkcudbright is soon to open a new exhibition, Still Alive, of work that reflects her journey through breast cancer treatment during the pandemic. Pic: Colin Hattersley

Alongside Still Alive, the Kirkcudbright painter will be running a series of free workshops where people directly affected by life-threatening illness can explore their own feelings and experiences by creating personal art journals.

The workshops are the final events in the Together Again season, a grassroots arts and cultural initiative organised by DG Unlimited with over £42,000 of funding from Dumfries and Galloway Council.

Julie was diagnosed in 2020 and in treatment into 2021 – a time that was already incredibly tough due to the impact of Covid on her work as an artist and small gallery owner.

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She said: “The paintings are a faithful interpretation of how I was feeling throughout. With cancer treatment you go from highs to desperate lows, and then there’s the exhaustion.

“Creating the work was cathartic for me. Sometimes I would sit at the easel and be in tears.

“Having cancer treatment during lockdown meant there was much less in the way of support. You couldn’t meet people going through the same experience and talk it over – it was just a matter of heading off to hospital for chemo every two weeks.

“I realised that there must be so many others out there who went through similar things so I decided to do the workshops.

"You don’t have to have any skills, no one’s going to ask you to talk about your experiences.

"I just realised so much gets locked up inside, and if these sessions help people unlock a little of what’s trapped, that’ll be brilliant.”

One of the aims of Together Again was to promote wellbeing, recognising that people have endured isolation and emotional pressures of many kinds as a result of the pandemic.

Still Alive, which takes place at Kirkcudbright’s Made on Cloud 9 gallery from May 14-June 18, features 12 standalone mixed media works, each inspired by an aspect of Julie’s experience. Among them is a self-portrait she painted after undergoing a mastectomy.

Julie said: “It’s about dignity; about saying that despite everything my head is still held high.”

Four Together Again workshops, take place on May 18 and 27 – for more information visit​​​​​​​​​​​​​​