The Dark Self 12, Susan Aldworth, 2017, monoprint, 56 x 76 cms. Image courtesy of the artist and Guy’s Hospital, London.
At the sleep disorders clinic, Guy’s Hospital
after The Dark Self 12
... then a girl with flaxen braids appears in the corridor to record my height and weight and produces a tape to measure my neck – the last surprises me but not as much as this framed monoprint of what might be an item of Victorian underwear. A closer look and I see these are not the seams and folds of a chemise but the apparition of a grey linen pillowcase that hovers above deckled paper as dark and ragged as the nights when my stone pillow refuses to let me sink: I struggle to be free of tangled hair and feathers and the scrabbling insects of a mind that won’t give in. With her inks and fabrics this artist gives me back the floating depths between wakefulness and sleep in which I drifted last night and will drift again.
The ghosts choose their mattresses with care
and refuse to sleep on memory foam. Unlike the living, they know they’d leave no mark. Instead the ghosts prefer to balance on holes in metal springs – uncomfortable, they feel real. When they sleep, they dream of teeth collapsing one by one with the sound of shattering glass – a scene from Tom and Jerry. Then, frozen to the wheel, they’re driving a truck through the white wall of a storm – it takes their breath away. What they want to dream is colours, knowing they’ll wake to the monochrome of rain falling from a morning sky.
The wardrobes of ghosts
smell of nights spent at sea. Hangers from drycleaners swing on metal rails. When the wires clink the ghosts join in. They try on outfits to wear on that special day when wedding gowns, pyjamas and pinstripe suits are changed for feathers or dresses of burst balloons. Draping waterfalls across places where bodies used to be they perch mountains like hats on skulls and trail cherry blossom (attached with paperclips) to give that Japanese look.