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Phil McAree – Bryan Charnley – Biographical Note


THE LETTER 10 (Summer 1997) pages 73-85


In 1971, while a student at the Central School of Art and Design, Bryan was diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. In 1982, he began to use what he called his ‘inner upheavals’ as a source of inspiration. ‘My work’ he wrote, ‘springs out of the necessity to make something positive out of the impossible situation I find myself in’. Bryan’s ultimate creative act was a series of seventeen self-portraits, painted between April and July 1991. They represent a deliberate attempt at self-investigation. There is a commentary to accompany each painting except the last two. Ten days after their completion, he committed suicide. Bryan says in the commentary to one of his works, that his hope was to ‘state with depth what it is to be human and schizophrenic’.


Freud said in a letter to Marie Bonaparte:


Mediocre spirits demand of science a kind of certitude which it cannot give, a sort of religious satisfaction. Only the real, rare, true scientific minds, can endure doubt, which is attached to all our knowledge. I always envy the physicists and mathematicians who can stand on firm ground. I hover, so to soeak, in the air. Mental events seem to be immeasurable and J. probably always will be so.

Bryan Charnley – Biographical Note

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