A digital photograph (portrait, colour), of what looks like the interior of a greenhouse. There is dry, brown soil at the bottom of the image, with thin struts of grey aluminum supports running vertically up the left of the image, with a bracing piece running at an angle across it. Behond the large panels of glass we can see a mass of green foliage with what looks like yellow snail shells hanging seemingly suspended between the greenery and the glass. The foliage is dense and thick, and we cannot see anything behind it. It looks like to could be nettles but it isnt clear. There are a number of reflections in the glass caprturing the rest of the greenhouse structure and other shapes. There looks like there may be a figure captured in the reflection of the glass, with them wearing a patterned jumper and a cap, but it is only faintly visible. At the base of the glass lies a small heap of wilted leaves from a plant as if wilted in heat. The image is strange, ordinary and calm.

I find myself continually drawn to creating images found in reflective surfaces, inspired by the way they facilitate image-making and how portraits can be captured in these transient spaces. In 2022, I created a solo show of self portraits and images found in reflective surfaces found in my home which was displayed at Level Centre, Derbyshire. The series was titled Sick Gaze, and explored the views, observations and contemplations both of and from the perspective of the sick body amongst domesticity. The images were printed onto brushed dibond. I loved creating this series, and i always want to pursue these ideas of image-making further.

I took this photo at the allotment inside the greenhouse, and suddenly i found it a really interesting place to consider these reflective concepts of sickness caught in a momentary image. What i was trying to explore in Sick Gaze was some of the vastness found in the small, cramped spaces of the sick existence in domesticity. Scale is endlessly fascinating to me as a sick artist, how sickness is often a practice of taking those small, cramped experiences of sameness and sitting with them, zooming in until they become vast landscapes. I hadn’t really considered how these ideas could be applied outside of domestic interiors, and it’s really interesting to me to think about how the allotment functions for me in this way.

I’m interested in the threshold of where the disabled body leaves the private space and meets a public one, and how the liminality of sick and disabled experiences results in this threshold often becoming a permanent state of being. The allotment holds lots of this sentiment in that way; not open to the public yet not wholly private, external architecture creating pockets of interior shelter found in sheds, greenhouses, chicken pens and polytunnels. We don’t live there, but the domestic finds itself out in the open all the time; old carpets used as weed suppressant, milk bottles on canes to scare the pigeons, bathtubs become waterbutts and salvaged windowpanes make up magnificent glass houses. I love the architecture of the allotment, this strange jumble of wreckage and bounty, it has a language all of its own. I’ve been thinking a lot about the way this language disrupts, how there is never a clear line of sight at the allotment, your gaze constantly interrupted by the combination of the knackered rake and rubble weighing down the tarp on a shed roof, the slump of a muck heap half covered or the debris of community life that the allotment often hosts like the storing of youth football club nets. It makes me think of illness as disruption, how there is never any straight line found in that landscape either. I love to think about gardening in this way, utilising design by not removing the disruptions but finding breaks and gaps amongst it, finding a kinship in the constant collaboration between my body and its own disruptive, uncomfortable limits.

I’m tired now and so I’m going to leave it there for now… I haven’t shared my writing/thoughts like this publically for some years now, having once been very present online via my Instagram @bella.milroy. It all feels very alien to me now to share my thoughts in a live/contemporary way like this, to share text that isn’t very polished or fully thought out. But this residency has been the first time i’ve made work in this way for so long now and i’m trying to embrace the format. It feels a bit weird, scary and nice.

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