This week we wanted to bring you a Welfare Week special, so we sat down with our very own Student Welfare Officer, Alicia Cookson, to chat all about how she uses painting as her own personal therapy!
Students’ Union: Hey Alicia! Let's kick off with a super simple intro to what course you’re on and what type of work you produce?
Alicia: Hello, I’m a level 6 Fine Art student alongside my Welfare Officer duties, I mainly produce oil paintings.
Students’ Union: Hats off to you, I could never quite get the hang of oil paints. Do you intend for your work to convey specific messages, and if so what?
Alicia: I want my paintings to convey the emotions I am going through at that time, they are a physical documentation of what's going on inside my head. And I feel like I'm at my most creative when I lean into challenging life events such as grief and bereavement. Even though the topics I choose are very emotionally demanding, the physicality of articulating these feelings is both cathartic and rewarding.
Students’ Union: That sounds intense yet healing, do you have a tried and tested working process to get those emotions onto paper?
Alicia: My process explores various concepts that I can emotionally relate to and then I pick an image that evokes a sense of attachment. And then I begin to unpack the feelings surrounding the image, through the use of colour. I also transform these feelings into different gestures that correlate to my own personal language of emotions. I experiment with this theme through producing colour studies of each individual emotion and then over time I try to embed these contrasting feelings together in one space, typically on canvas.
Pictured above from left to right: 'Love', 'Auras', 'Life, Birth & Death'.
Students’ Union: It’s so interesting that you’ve developed your own personal language of emotions visually through your work. What do you feel drives you to create your work?
Alicia: I create the work I make because it allows me to make sense of what I'm feeling in a safe and healthy manner. I paint my emotions as it helps me to understand them better and when I step back from the canvas, I can see them for what they really are. Once they're out in the open, they are then transformed into physical and tangible objects. The best part is after they are brought to fruition, I can let them go; to me, painting is part of my healing journey.
Students’ Union: It sounds like a really personal way of experiencing your emotions, do you find yourself creating work outside of your degree? Could you talk about the last piece of work you created for yourself and how it made you feel?
Alicia: The last painting I created outside of my degree, is probably one of my best pieces because I created it for myself and no one else. It is an oil painting that I dedicated to my late Grandma, as it was a way of me expressing these feelings of grief through colour and paint. It's my favourite piece of work because only I can see the depth of emotion and value that it has in it because it reminds me of her. That sense of individuality is so important to me and my practice.
Students’ Union: That is so beautiful, I can only imagine how proud your Grandma is of having an original Alicia Cookson work dedicated just to her. Our final question of the day is quite fitting considering we’ve talked a lot about expressing emotions of the past, where do you hope your art takes you in the future?
Alicia: I hope that my art practice will become my full-time job and that I am able to showcase my artwork all over the world, in various different galleries and exhibitions. I want to sell my paintings alongside prints of my work and collaborate with other artists on group projects.
Students’ Union: Well, I’m sure the emotional backstory of your gorgeous paintings will capture the hearts of many! Thank you so much for sharing with us.
If you’d like to check out more of Alicia’s work then make sure to follow her @aliciacookson on Instagram, and don’t forget to check out @aliciacooksonwelfare to see all the amazing work she’s doing as the 21/22 Welfare Officer!