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Emma’s brain paints pain and beauty

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Emma Holt began painting when she was nine years old and hasn’t stopped. Now, at almost 21, this Mornington resident has just had her first exhibition, Welcome to my Brain, which she spent four months working towards. Sixteen oil paintings later and with a few sales under her creative belt, she’s about to get on to the next project, which is no mean feat for a girl who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in April 2018. 

Emma explains: “It’s strange. I don’t really have any memory of a couple of months around the time of being hospitalised in 2018. I’d been showing symptoms of mania since I was 16 and had been home-schooled since I was 14 due to health issues. I had a manic episode at the beginning of last year where I couldn’t stop pacing up and down and talking faster and my mum just said, ‘You don’t seem right’. I was in the waiting room at the doctor’s office and I did a sketch of what my brain looked and felt like. Bipolar is like a miscommunication in the brain and I drew it in 10 minutes.” We laugh. “I’m happy to laugh about it now because if you don’t laugh, you cry, but back then I couldn’t sleep and I was all over the place. My sleeping pattern is good now. I’m in bed by 10pm and sleep right through to 7.30am.”

Emma felt as though she didn’t have any purpose after leaving hospital, but that’s changed. She’s always got a sketch book in her bag and spends plenty of time in her home studio doodling, drawing and painting with her preferred medium, oils. She continues: “I studied visual arts for two years despite everyone saying I should go back to school, but the more I learnt about art, the more I wanted to know and do. I don’t know where I’d be without it. I just go inside my studio, put on Lime Cordiale or an ‘80s playlist and paint. Somehow I know all the words to those songs, which I can’t quite work out.”

If you’d like to catch some of this young artist’s brightly brain-challenging work, then follow her on Instagram @papermashed_ to catch a glimpse of what’s inside this resilient and creative woman’s cranium. Who knows where to next, but with supportive parents, an older DJing brother and a volunteer position with non-profit disability support organisation Blairlogie Living and Learning, life’s heading in the right direction. 


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