Artist: Vanja Karas
About This Work - A Message from the Artist
Over the last few years I have been working on a project with Tim Andrews, who has in 2005 been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. This series explores the ongoing impact of a chronicle illness, on both our mental and physical being. Focusing and emphasising on our deep sense of isolation and internal battle with the illness. The stripped down and exposed body connects us to the essence of the human form and our vulnerability.
Statement by Tim Andrews
A few years ago, I was invited to speak about my photographic project, “Over the Hill” at a symposium in Bristol, in which various speakers discussed Photography’s relationship with Illness, Mental Health and Wellbeing. I had recently decided to bring my project to an end and I took the opportunity to look back and reassess how it had affected me.
I wrote the following words:
I found myself on the bank of a fast flowing river - I could not stop myself falling into the water I found it difficult to swim because of the current and went under but then surfaced and grabbed what seemed to be a branch of an overhanging tree. It was, in fact, the paddle of a small boat being held out to me by an old man. As he hauled me to safety, I saw the light of the moon on his skin, his muscles, his hair and then his eyes which held that light as he looked down on me with such love and compassion that I was overcome with emotion and I collapsed, exhausted, onto the hard wooden floor of the boat.
I lay there for a while as we moved slowly across the water. My saviour moved the boat so well or did the river move the boat? It was difficult to say. I tried to speak but no words came to my lips. I drifted off into a sleep accompanied by a harmony of sounds - water lapping against the creaking bow, the relieved breaths of slumber replacing the desperate heaving of my lungs and the soft whistle of a tune by the man who plunged the paddle into the water first one side and then the other.
I woke in the sunlight of the morning to muffled sounds of voices. The boat was still moving. I raised myself up on one elbow and blinked. I was alone on the boat which nudged against the bank. I stood up and saw my wife, Jane. She was crying tears of sadness and joy. She took the branch from my hand and threw it into the water and, as she did so, we looked over to the far side of the river. There was no tree only the figure of a young man carrying a paddle walking away. He stopped, looked back and waved and then turned and disappeared into the long grass. I recognised him immediately. It was me.
Vanja Karas photographed me for my project Over the Hill and, as such, held out the branch which I grasped as I struggled in the water. These photographs means so much to me; not only are they beautifully composed, they says a great deal about my illness. I am stripped of my identity and I am looking back to my previous, normal life. But what is normal? Certainly, what became normal was meeting such beautiful and talented artists as Vanja who cared enough to give their time and expertise to photograph me.
Vanja Karas is a Belgrade-born, London based Artist, Curator, Designer and Creative Director. She graduated from the University of Arts in Belgrade, followed by an MA from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and King’s College London. Vanja began her creative career in theatre directing, and from there moved on to work in a range of other visual arts media including film, video, multimedia, graphic design and print. In recent years her work has been focused mainly on site-specific installations, photography, conceptual art and most recently textile design. She has followed her MA by studying photography at Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design and International College of Photography, New York.
Vanja has exhibited her work world-wide in UK, Japan, USA, Italy, Mexico, Malaysia, India, Nepal, Germany, France, Spain and Serbia – including the Museum of Contemporary Art of Oaxaca (MACO), 56th, 57th, 58th Venice Biennale (Italy), Royal Academy of Arts (UK) (2019 and 2009 Summer Exhibition), Institute of Contemporary Arts ICA (UK), Somerset House (UK), Mall Galleries (UK), The Photographers’ Gallery (UK), Association of Photographers (UK), Royal College of Arts (UK), Royal Overseas League (UK), Chelsea Arts Club (UK), CHART Gallery (UK), Mercers Hall (UK), Tobacco Docks (UK), National Portrait Gallery (UK), Tate online (UK), Turner Contemporary (UK), Q-Park Car Park (UK), Vout-O-Reenee’s (UK), The Hall of Awa Museum (Tokushima, Japan), New Orleans Photo Alliance (USA), Les Rencontres d’Arles (France), Palazzo Ducale Cantelmo, (Italy), Galerie Huit (Arles, France), China House, (Malaysia), Alliance Francaise (Malaysia), Siddhartha Art Gallery (Kathmandu, Nepal), New Moment (Belgrade, Serbia).
Her work has been published in books and magazines and commissioned for a number of private, public, museum and corporate collections including: Swiss Re (the Gherkin), St Mary’s Hospital, Hotel du Vin, Malmaison Hotels and a number of De Vere Venues including 1 Westferry Circus.
In 2018 one of Vanja’s artworks sold for £10,000, auctioned by Colin Sheaf, of Bonhams, in aid of Art for Grenfell and the survivors of the Grenfell Tower disaster. It was the highest sale at the auction, some of the other contributing artists included: Gilbert and George, Boy George, Sue Tilley, Zandra Rhodes, Will Alsop and Darren Coffield.
Vanja also works as an Creative / Art Director and Curator. She is the Founder and Curator of the Photography Open Salon, (Arles, London and South-East Asia) which ran alongside the renowned Les Rencontres d’Arles photography festival and which has since its inception in 2011 exhibited over 200 photographers on two continents and published three award winning books. She is on the Photography Open Salon judging panel. Vanja is also the Founder and Creative Director of Magenta Grove London, an Award Winning London based design studio.
You can view more of Vanja's work at https://vanjakaras.com/ or via her instagram @vanjakaras