After visiting Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) throughout his childhood, George tells us about how art helped his treatment. Now, aged 22, his work has been selected for exhibition at Turner Contemporary art gallery.
Treatment at GOSH
George told us about his condition: “I was born with cricoarytenoid fixation and scoliosis, which is rare to be born with, and rare for a boy. I had trouble using my vocal chords due to a clenching sensation.”
George was just a year old when he first visited GOSH – his last trip was when he was sixteen. “I regularly visited Dr Albert but there wasn’t really anything they could do,” he said. “I could have had laser surgery for cricoarytenoid fixation but my parents decided it was too dangerous due to the risk of losing my voice. I had physiotherapy for scoliosis when the pain was really bad, but I’ve never taken medication for my condition.
“I was always scared when I came to visit, but that’s only because of the noises and smells. As I got older it was a learning experience because of what I saw around me,” George added.
Growing up with a medical condition
Many young people find it hard to come to terms with their condition. George said: “My parents didn’t really make anything of my condition. To me, the hospital was just another place I visited. As I got older I got more aware of it, but none of my friends know about it.
“If there’s one thing that being in hospital teaches you it’s to be really determined. Everyone around you is determined and it helps you develop self-discipline and aspiration.”
George said that learning these traits has aided him to pursue a creative career: “I’ve always been told by my tutors that I have a strong work ethic. I put this down to the hospital teaching me about perseverance and staying strong.”
Art at GOSH
For many, play therapy is a distraction when in hospital. It can help young people prepare for treatment and understand their condition. George said: “I remember that there used to be a corridor on my ward with access to basic art materials. I would always sit there while my parents were in the waiting room. When I came in for an endoscopy I passed the time using the art materials, it really alleviated the stress of having tests and treatments.
“I had a speech delay and started school late so I found it really difficult to communicate, art can be really useful in verbalising myself. I also have autism so I use things around me to communicate. If the conversation isn’t around art, I find it difficult.
George now specialises in sculpture as an art discipline: “Sculpture helped me to relax, its beautiful. I often find it’s not the finished thing but the process that relaxes you. When you create something you develop a new sense of self-awareness.”
GOSH as an inspiration
“I don’t plan it, but ideas from the hospital always appear in my work. People say my sculptures remind them of hospitals.
“One time I made an installation out of coffee. I remember that in hospital, parents habitually drink coffee. I’ve also used chocolate and varnish, sugar, plaster, and a lot of industrial materials.
“I saw a lot of children in hospital with different conditions, such as hernia and bladder problems. I’m fascinated by that. [Insert image]
“Whenever I would come to the hospital we would go to a gallery after, usually the British Museum or National Gallery. I think I grew up associating art with GOSH.”
George’s first exhibition
After studying fine art at university, George’s work was selected to be exhibited in a graduate showcase: “Curators from a few galleries came to visit my degree show and selected pieces of work they felt fitted with their theme or have a quality they’re looking to include in a gallery. They liked my work so I was asked to write a personal statement and submit images. I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the two from my school to exhibit at Turner Contemporary.
“The prize is access to a grant for studio space with a mentoring scheme."
“My condition has never stopped me from doing anything, I just have to do things in moderation. I often have trouble lifting things, which can be hard when I’m working on a sculpture. Sometimes if I walk too much I feel my legs give way a bit. There can be a spasm in my jaw if I talk lots too. I have to be really mindful.”
George’s work is on display in the 'Platform 2016' exhibition from 4 August until 25 September 2016 at Turner Contemporary.
Find out more about GO Create!, the hospital's art programme.