Johnny Kavanagh: And when I was nineteen I met a serpent in the garden and it told me: "Child, there's nothing unnatural about you"
There are so many aspects to living a life. Yes there is the physical, the mental, the spiritual, but there are so many sub-categories within and without those worlds of physical, mental, spiritual.
We are as humans, a multi-faceted jewel. We have faces, upon face, upon faces, all of them working dependently, or seemingly independently, dragging us this way and that way, that it is often hard to know who we are, who we are meant to be, and perhaps more importantly, who we want to be.
To an artist, all these facets of who we are, are legitimate subjects for study, for contemplation, for projection through creative work. One of the facets of who we are as people, is depression, and it is a facet that dwells deep in the artists psyche, something that artists have struggled with, embraced, even been defeated by.
Johnny Kavanagh: All my love comes tearing out; This quiet beating of my desperate heart is a screaming chorus in my head, singing your name
Johnny Kavanagh: It drains my batteries, it drains my life
That it is a universal phenomenon not just related to artists, makes depression a particularly important and valid vehicle for artists.
Johnny Kavanagh, who might be better known as The Boy Melancholy, produces work that is not about depression, but about life with depression, there is a difference.
Johnny's compositions are beautifully portrayed poems, myths, symbolic stories of life lived with depression. He explores through his work, the different aspects and causes of depression, and there are many. It would be foolish to try and give a comprehensive list of the forms of the roots of depression, the forms that the flowering of depression can take.
Johnny Kavanagh: Callipathos
Johnny Kavanagh: This clinging need; Dreams of you are weaved from silk, I tried to imitate their lines but I smudged the ink
However, Johnny's work encompasses some fundamental elements such as anxiety, heartbreak, loneliness, yearning. It encompases self-esteem issues such as: the feeling of never being good enough for anyone or anything, never feeling worthy of love, believing that you are sectioned off from humanity, a lost cause, a self-hidden failure.
Money problems are always present, as is feelings of being lost and without direction, as is the belief in the crumbling state of humanity and the environment around you. He encompasses the roots and effects felt through forms of abusive relationships both sexual and mental, from the betrayal of trust, through the cynical exploitation by those who are meant to love you, by the betrayal of love itself. The list, as you can imagine, is endless.
One of the tragedies of our times is the high levels of depression that we are now seeing. It hits all social, economic, ethnic, gender, and age levels, it is indeed rife across the planet, and it is so readily ignored, with so many living and struggling with levels of depression that are near critical.
Johnny Kavanagh: Half-full is never enough
Johnny Kavanagh: The knight in wolfskin; Oh, I thought you were a Prince but you turned out to be a coward as you kept me in your tower, in my desolation I heard the howl of the wild calling me to the wilderness
There are so many causes of depression, so many threads that follow us through life, but as Johnny says "...at the end of the day, depression needs no excuse, it just is."
Probably the saddest aspect of all is the way that depression is treated by others. It is regularly dismissed as fantasy or fancy, it's treated as an affectation - poetic melancholy, it's treated as a minor ailment 'remember, a smile is just a frown turned upside down', what an asinine statement. Depression is all so real and true, and often thickly rooted.
Beautiful and haunting as Johnny's work is, please try to see beyond the obvious. This is an artist with something important to say about himself, and about others. Like all artists, they really need to be listened to, to be pondered over, to be felt. Johnny's work is a catharsis for self, and a catharsis for all.
Johnny Kavanagh: It's a long dark road to discovering you can be whole in your emptiness
Johnny Kavanagh: The soul bears fruit
And why The Boy Melancholy? It was a way for Johnny to project his own depressive thoughts and feelings from inside to outside. By calling himself The Boy Melancholy, he was in reality announcing his depression. Taking ownership of your depression is the first step in dealing with that depression. If we can do that individually then we should be able to do that as a community, and as a species. We are all connected, we are all interdependent, if one suffers then on one level or another, we all do.
Personally speaking, I have a number of friends who suffer from depression, and although you feel as if you can only do so much, I've found that the most important gift you can give is friendship, companionship, connection.
People with depression don't need 'remember a smile is just a frown turned upside down', they need understanding, patience, warmth, security, love...and we can all give them that, it is after all, unlimited.
Johnny's work can be found at his comprehensive site: https://theboymelancholy.tumblr.com/ as well as at social media sites: facebook and instagram
Please be aware that all imagery illustrating this feature is copyrighted to the artist. Please ask permission before reusing. Thanks.
Johnny Kavanagh: Trust you take the right to leave me waiting under dark clouds for the rain, praying lightning strikes a change