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'Bella would be so proud'

 

SUDEP Action supporter Colin Everleigh will have a work displayed at The Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition in July and August. Colin's work is inspired by his daughter Annabel who died of SUDEP, aged just 24. Here, Colin, explains his journey in his own words. 

"First, we have to go back 20 years. Our lovely daughter Annabel was an artist. She graduated in Fine Art Sculpture from Coventry in 2002 and - because as well as being a psychologist I'm an artist too - I always thought one day we would exhibit together. It wasn't to be. Sadly, she died at the age of 24 in 2004 due to SUDEP. It was a terrible trauma for all of us, as it is whenever you lose a loved one, and we've lived with it ever since. 

"It’s a moot point, but unlike a movie, you can never really erase or edit from memory the real-life events you’ve actually lived through. You can try and I so wish we could, but unfortunately I don’t think it’s possible. Some of you will know only too well what I mean. It can’t be changed. No matter what we do. By chance - the worst (and the best) really can happen and if it does, inevitably it stays with us.

"And.... at any time, there’s always another chance of a sequel isn’t there? Something better. maybe? Maybe not an equal chance but a chance anyway in this epic film production of Life. That’s where ‘Cutting Room’ comes in.

"Cutting Room is the name of the work I entered to the Summer Exhibition. Bella would have been so excited about the whole Royal Academy process, willing me on, she’s been with me every step of the way.

"Imagine an empty case from an old wooden wall clock about two foot tall. Nothing special, no clock, no pendulum. But it did have a beautiful curved glass face and three rectangular glass panels towards the base. I found it in an antique shop. I had no idea what I might use it for but had to have it. Similarly, in a different place and time I found an old 16mm film editing device. Same thing. I didn't go looking for it and had no idea why I bought it. I collect stuff and, when they're ready, they mysteriously come together and transcend their original intended purpose. Rather than figurative or abstract sculpture, most of my work is conceptual, and might make you think.

"I had been watching a lot of films and musing over the editing process in movie-making. This reminded me about the way we as individuals edit things in our own minds and memories from the life experiences we have over time. How we shape, retell and reconstruct our stories by selecting and choosing the scenes to use and how inevitably bits end up on the cutting room floor.

"Naturally, the clock case and the editing device symbolised time and the mind and I could see that somehow both these objects belonged together.

"To cut a long story short, the clock case ended up as an artwork - with the editing device and some added 16mm film representing the recording medium of the mind. I obtained the film cheekily from the British Film Institute in London because I had the bright idea of writing and telling them about the project and asking if they might have some spare film. Surprisingly, they actually replied. The chairman was very encouraging and kindly sent me some unexposed film. Amazing! 

"Remarkably, the lower half of the case with the three glass panels also matched the evolving concept. You see, the self can be thought of as being in three parts too:- I, Me, Mine. We have a natural tendency to filter and edit all our direct experiences through the self and I often represent this in my work through mirrors. So, I fixed a large mirror inside at the back of the case behind the three panels and of course, you can see yourself reflected there.

"There was a slight hiccup with the curved glass face when I accidentally but seriously cracked it and had to spend ages searching for a replacement. But finally... it looked just right. The face with the editor for the mind inside, a mobius loop and strips of film for the workings of the mind. The triptych of mirrored panels for the self. No longer an empty clock case, it was now an actual work of art. Eventually satisfied, I closed the doorway and secured the whole piece with a satisfying twist of brass wire. Cutting Room was born!

"Something wa missing though. Should I write a verse to go with it? It didn't need one but still I wrote something anyway, typed and printed on a small piece of brown paper and signed, rolled and slid it into a metal tube mounted out of sight on the back of what was now in art terms an assemblage. You wouldn't know it was there.

However, these are the words...
 

Cutting Room

Fleeting tangled time is caught here

Edited and changed

Pieces fragments frames

Exposed viewed and thrown away

Seeing each moment as it is

Perfect even when un-retouched

Each film remains intact

 

So there it is. Cutting Room, the director's cut. 

Annabel would have so loved all this and it’s incredibly sad that she can’t be here to share in what will be a joyous occasion. What can you do? We’ve been learning to live with our loss as best we can over the past 20 years and I’m positive she has helped me in the production of this particular work. Bella is always here and as she would proudly say, 'my Dad's showing at the RA'."

 

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition takes place from 18 June until 18 August (Tues–Sun, 10am–6pm & Fri, 10am–9pm) at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London 

Read Annabel's story here  https://sudep.org/my-story/stories/annabel-may