Still Alive – A Kirkcudbright Artist’s Experience of Cancer Treatment During the Pandemic 

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

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 the independent arts organisation DG Unlimited with over £42,000 of funding from Dumfries & 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 and the lockdowns on her work as an artist and the owner of a small gallery.

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 that there was much less in the way of support. You couldn’t meet up with people going through the same experience and talk it over – it was just a matter of relentlessly 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 that so much gets locked up inside, and if these sessions can help people unlock a little of what’s trapped within, 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 14 May to 18 June, 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.”

There are four Together Again workshops, taking place on 18 and 27 May.

Stephen Lacey, Chair of DG Unlimited, said: “Together Again has been very successful in promoting community events and grassroots arts and cultural activity all across the region. This is something we felt was enormously important as part of the rebuilding process that needs to take place due to the pandemic.
“Julie’s exhibition and workshops mark a fitting conclusion for the season – they really sum up what we were aiming to do – making use of the unrivalled capacity of the arts to act as a catalyst and to bring people back together.”

Together Again funded 23 groups and projects ranging from theatre and music, poetry, cabaret, dance and visual art in ways that engaged people of many different ages and interests in towns and villages all across Dumfries and Galloway.

It formed an important part of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Major Festivals and Events Strategy 2021/22.

Latest Articles