Christopher Colm Morrin | Issue Eleven Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your work

I’m Christopher from Dublin, Ireland. I grew up as an only child with my parents in the suburbs of working-class Dublin. I was quiet, observant and wanted to stay out of trouble as much as I could. I was a sensitive kid. Soon my parents broke up during my teens with my Father announcing that he was transgendered. It wasn't easy for any of us. I was broken somehow by their struggle, wishing to find a sense of love from anywhere I could get it. I was very confused. We were all very confused. I started offering myself to everyone and anyone for attention. It was the only way to avoid unwanted feelings.

I was lucky enough to buy a guitar, start writing songs and meet open-minded kids as a teenager. This helped me to express my feelings more easily somehow. I ended up studying psychoanalysis for many years, whilst continuing to use music as a tool of self-expression. After university and a couple of album releases later, I decided to leave Ireland for Berlin, to face the repressed suffering I had ignored my whole life. Berlin changed me. It broke me open. It still does. I soon met other visual artist friends who helped me to start to paint and draw. I quickly got an atelier in the heart of Neukölln, an artist area of Berlin. I do my work to keep my feet on the ground, to not get too big-headed and to enjoy life for what it serves up. My work has also helped me to breathe better.

How is your personality reflected in your work

There is Christopher in there, and then I think there’s so much more than just me. I feel drawing and painting allows one to collapse inside themselves and to feel things that one thought they could never feel, almost as if one feels for everything and everyone. Also, a sense of vulnerability runs throughout my work. I think it's important to show one's true sides.

Tell us about the themes you pursue in your work

Finding lost and new feelings are something I tend to look for. A sense of safety I once lost, a sense of timelessness somehow. I think the amount of trauma that I carried with me created a lack of stability in my later life. Everything was too hard to hold onto correctly. My current work focuses on dreams, memories, and reflections, to be as open and honest as I can, to heal, to share the experience of life being too much sometimes. Dreams are powerful to unlock true feelings. I like putting everything on the canvas, the immensity of existence in that specific moment. It’s like projecting the truth of how my mind works and how it truly perceives reality. It might not be the “right way” (is there even right way?) of seeing things, but it certainly is honest and open. That's what art allows you to do.

What do you think the role of the artist is in society? How can artists raise awareness for mental health?

In my humble opinion, the role of the artist in society is a very important one, especially in times of collective fear. The artist can help people to reflect within themselves and to not be afraid to approach themselves in a more vulnerable manner. Artists can raise awareness by simply speaking more about mental health issues. Mental health has such a stigma that most people are too afraid to even admit their issues to others, to speak out. It's an artist's job to speak out about how society avoids such important issues, and I feel mental health is a major subject to speak out about.

I also think it's important to remind ourselves that although creativity is a very powerful tool to deal with mental health issues, it doesn't mean that creativity and mental health issues are always in correlation with each other. I believe that society needs to deconstruct the myth of great art being created as a result of mental health struggles.

How do you cope with days that are overwhelming, frustrating, and otherwise tough? What helps you bounce back?

Looking for help. Reaching out to others and not being afraid to find professional help too. Sometimes everything feels too much, so I like to reduce my thought process to one single focus. Basically helping myself to calm down. It can be a simple thing like sharing a moment with a friend. Isolation can be something that can damage you on a very deep level. It's simply not cool. So, socializing is crucial; friends are the best.

What advice would you give to young aspiring artists – especially if they are living with mental health conditions?

You are not alone and your feelings matter. The journey of getting to know yourself will be a lifetime experience, so understand the importance of patience and give yourself a break. This will also help you to flow more easily with creativity. Regardless of the gender you identify with, and you're cultural background, you should always feel free to speak out about your feelings. Finally, never forget that you are allowed to enjoy the process of art as an adult, almost like the way the child in you would have loved to put their hands through the green grass.


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