Back of dark figure releasing butterflies into a colourful sky

Sharm's story

The story may contain themes of a sensitive nature. See our guidance on viewing the exhibition.

Several years ago Sharm suffered a burnout caused by long term chronic stress spiralling into severe anxiety and depression. As she says it took her to:

...a really dark place.

Her depression had crept up on her gradually until she could no longer mentally, physically and emotionally cope with life’s demands.

Seeking help was a big step for her. She had been brought up to believe that therapy was a sign of weakness. As a mother and a grandmother she was supposed to be the pillar of the house, the one who provided support to other people. She had a sense that “Women should just get on and deal with it”. At times she felt an inner conflict between what she thought her community expected, what she believes and what her family will think. Sometimes feeling like an outsider both in British and Indian cultures, struggling to find her place. Recovery has been slow and she still suffers with trauma and severe bouts of anxiety.

Sharm used a range of evocative metaphors to describe her feelings when depressed: a sense of isolation, dressed in black, dark clouds and tornadoes, being held down,  a sense of internal heaviness, loads of chains holding her down, sinking in a sea of water and trying to breathe. And then how recovery felt: lifted up like a butterfly, light and free, a rainbow of colours, and a sense of a transition from the dark shades to lighter brighter colours.

The painting was inspired by a thought Sharm had after talking with Andy:

I thought what I would like the artwork to look like and a vision I had was of me, silhouetted head and shoulders. Starting off dark and gradually expanding into different colours with a final releasing of loads of butterflies.

The colours in the painting are inspired by the colours Sharm used to wear - coral, pinks and vibrant blues associated with India and Hindu dress. The butterflies are a mix of British and more exotic African and Indian species, reflecting aspects of her heritage - Painted Lady, Common Blue, Indian Tiger, Citrus Swallowtail, Orange Oakleaf and Blue Mormon.

After seeing the final piece Sharm said:

Thank you so much for this amazing artwork which fully captures my thoughts, emotions and feelings in which you have created from our very few conversations.. totally lost for words. The painting represents myself trapped in a very dark place looking, reaching out at colours of hope, new beginnings with freedom and lightness as the butterflies.


Click or tap to see another painting.


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Faded image of back of dark figure releasing butterflies into a colourful sky and the words "Current painting" over the top

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