Sometimes Mary Poppins is about all a man can manage. And yeah, I cried. I could blame coming off of all anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds and such would be true. But as I explained to my GP recently – if there is real trauma in my life then I have to feel it. If there is real injustice, I have to recognise and deal with it. That aside, Thanks to my dearest friend (T) for another lovely day out. Rock n roll it may not be – but I will take all the feel-good film, kindness and friendship that I can get.
That I have work to show for Open Studios Cornwall 2016 is extraordinary.
That it has not been lost, dumped, destroyed, left to rot, broken, neglected, dismissed nor decayed is a mark of tenacity and commitment.
What is being shown is, for the most part, everything that has not been shown.
Out of the paintings – four have been exhibited in galleries, eight have been sold or given – but all else has been stored, boxed up and protected as much as is humanly possible during decades of hardship, some stability and rare fleeting moments of great joy.
And too made in differing context but all is Art.
And I am the Artist. I am the Poet and I am the Song Writer.
There is nothing to distinguish one completed piece from another. Each work is part of and another sentence toward my unique story, my book (metaphorically and literally)
That a picture – or other media work – was made: in a studio, in an Art School,on a psychiatric ward, in a prison cell;
(time spent as a transitioning Trans-man, Man, in a Woman’s prison. A drink driving offence serious enough that I, inadvertently, put others and myself at risk trying to get to a particular destination. A field, actually, where I could finally give up. And prison for further assessment and months of safeguarding as, finally, my depression was recognised.
‘Gynn is not any risk to the public,’ the final validating and touching honesty of magistrates at my plight to have been desperately trying to get help and health care previous to the conviction.
‘We are sorry, but if Mental Health teams in Cornwall won’t give you a bed, we have to send you to prison, because we feel that you are at risk.’)
From there -winning a koestler trust prize – the art work ‘ I am not a number’ only to be sold for charity.
… in a bedroom, in a kitchen, in a day centre or a support group doesn’t matter to Me.
What matters is that it was made at all, that it was drawn at all, that it was built at all that it was transformed at all, that it was written at all, that it was sung at all and that it was performed at all. What matters to me is that it still exists. And still is.
The only exception, perhaps, being ‘Performance Art’ in Norwich.
Some, actually too much, was dumped and discarded – quite literally. 500 tiny hand made moths I took to the skips in Suffolk along with wooden kinetic sculptural pieces. Drawings were torn up time and time again. I did that as part of some huge ‘Spring Clean’ as if the sensitive and raw nature and content of the work’s dialogue could be laid to rest. Work that was shockingly sad, poignant, challenging, ground breaking and brutally honest is now, long gone, but records of it all remain.
My original task was always going to be to make works of art (it is still – to an extent)
My task then was to safeguard it and I did.
My task now is to evince it. Show it. Give it life. Record all aspects of it. Acknowledge it. Declare it and Stand By it.
Maybe even celebrate it.
It is possible that being a (first time) contributor to Open Studio Cornwall I can show and demonstrate some degree of worth.
(and I am wet through, coaxed in from the sea by lifeguards, hungry, desperately sad, in crisis and in a traumatic state of mind and I am in handcuffs and sobbing – yet again. And the desk police sergeant looks over the entrance desk across and down at me (one of thousands of mentally ill people sectioned and desperately trying to cope, without health care, in Cornwall)
…’and what do you do for a living?’
My voice a whisper – ‘artist’
and he laughs and he grins and he winks to his colleagues and he preens himself on the genius of his coming joke.
‘In other words …nothing!’
Worked out that – The photo portrait on the left is 2007 and taken by Robin Hammond for the National Autistic Society exhibition ‘Think Differently about Autism’ and I was 46 years old and ‘presented’ as a Woman. And the other portrait is by photographer Shane Reynolds 2015 and I am now 54 years old and have completed gender re-assignment from female to male. I wanted to compare the two together. So these are two photos 8 years apart from one another. In the first I was Aly (short and abbreviation of then birth name Alison) …and now as Alyster – with new birth certificate. (copyright: Robin Hammond and Shane Reynolds)
Self Study – Mental Health
Visual Arts, film, photography, Painting: Projects – Across The Tamer, The Sphere Of Poetry, Portraiture, Collect
Music, Biscuit Tin Drummer, Back To The Drawing Room
Campaign, One An All Of Us – Cornwall Campaign For Better Mental Health Care
Literature, Automatic Biography: The Hurry – an A to Z of Endurance
Literature, anthropology : Rhyme nor Reason (Poetry) Autism and Empathy
world peace on a shoe string and weather permitting
Biscuit Tin Drummer – a small scale project of thousands of people with an overall goal of bringing about World Peace. – obviously allowing for a small scale budget. This is a hub of collaborating musicians, artists, photographers and film makers, however all are invited to contribute too. Early stages are First stage – blue sky, brain storming, ideas, concept and free flow platform the time line is the onset Autumn 2014 – June 2015. Second Stage – implementation, meetings, skype and exploration, this Second stage timeline is June 2015 – January 2016 it will include an application for funding Arts Council England. Third, Final Stage – An exhibition of project, the film and song with an accompanying visual, written journal by all contributing. The base for the project are Cornwall and Devon – However, individual contributors come from and engage from much further afield.
Paignton is my worst nightmare and a dream come true. Once establishing that I was going through yet another, yawn! Yawn! Depressive episode, it makes sense to hole up and hibernate even though the sun is shining and people around appear to be doing that thing which is commonly known as laughing. At most, I know that from experience any sensory overload could catapult my depression into full blown melt down and break down mentally and so I do have to manage my way through until I feel safe again. This can take weeks, days and sometimes months. it makes no sense to go on a short break at one of the most busiest times of the year at a holiday resort known for copious arcades, flashing lights, children screaming with joy and children screaming randomly which I have worked out has something to do with seagulls and ice cream. The many pubs with speakers bellowing out to the seafront are an affront to the senses, as a recovering alcoholic I had to walk past them full of longing but, thankfully, a feeling soon replace by the reality of recovery – a no go zone. So there I was in Paignton honouring a commitment with talented photographers, a portrait booking which had been made in advance and one in which I needed to update my Arts profile in all its shapes and forms. And a benchmark of time and place.
I heard Toya from ‘Oxyte’ photography on Radio 4, 2013 talking about her work and her modelling agency ‘Aesthetic Clarity’ and I had known Emma’s work too with ‘Dark Star’ photography and that they worked independently, but sometimes collaboratively. They are good friends and that shows in the way in which they communicate with each other, they don’t stifle each other’s creativity but stick to their own specific skills. Emma’s tends to be taking a photograph in any position she so chooses, if needed she would hang upside down from an automatic revolving door if it made a good image. I admire that agility in the young (or at least younger than me) I’m pleased that she didn’t ask me to pose lying on my stomach outside the main library as she had just done, but there were construction cranes nearby to get me up again.
Funny, warm, talkative, passionate and excitable – a true delight. And trendy, I felt privileged to be in her company, I almost felt ‘cool’ Toya, the core and main helm of all the projects and agency is a skilled photographer too, an astute business Woman who doesn’t take her work lightly although she makes it fun. She is warm, friendly and passionate about her work too and an incredible driving force behind it all. I could not believe that they got photos of me smiling. How can that be? I will repeat that: I cannot believe that they got photos of me smiling, no laughing … actually laughing and it dawned on me that I was having fun.
That my Girlfriend was there to support me and to enjoy the experience also made it better, that we combined the photo shoot with a short break was wise. And we posed for images toward our collaborative music projects and recording. I remember Toya talking about how building the confidence of the person being photographed was an integral thing about their work. And that, my understanding was, that disability or being ‘different’ was not an issue. By which One doesn’t have to be someone they or not, nor does One have to be someone they are meant to be by others standards. It is clear in all the photos taken by Toya and Emma, by ‘Oxyte’ and ‘Dark Star’ – Before you see anything – You see the person. You see their eyes and the honesty, rawness and energy is mind blowing. Each portrait is a living portrait. It is not confined by urban walls or streets or setting. The model is allowed to (or given freedom) in the environment. I love their work and I am greatly honoured to have been photographed by them both. And I love Paignton, never in my life would I have dreamed that I could manage the sensory onslaught of a penny arcade for two hours. It cost me £56 in two pence pieces to win a Spiderman key ring (wink)
But fun is fun and fun can still be fun in glimpses as Depression erodes away again for another rainy day.
Check out their websites and Facebook pages, these people need grants and bursaries and awards and funding, they should be globe trotters with all their models. They are Paignton’s Pride and Joy
Painting ‘It Rhymes With Orange’
Acrylic on Canvas 2006 (254mm by 355mm/10″ by 14″)
For Main Visual Art Website go to:
There is too much to write about this Artist and maybe too, too much to know. A brief description of his work, a summary of his achievements and downfalls are numerous and almost incalculable. He is writings his memoirs and that should help matters. He gained success at three United Kingdom Art Schools: Plymouth, Falmouth and Norwich. Being a Fine Art student is all well and good, but they didn’t tell him how to cope with depression and for many years Gynn was undecided as to which came first – the depression before the Art, or the Art before depression. Was it a cause of mental ill health? Or was it the medicine needed?
Gynn has so many certificates of education (no really!) that he seldom knows how to relate them to everyday living and Independence. Perhaps they don’t, perhaps being such a highly professional Artist doesn’t, in itself, pay the bills.
Gynn will look at a cooker and mutter ‘this is not a cooker.’ Cereal for every meal solves this.
Rather than scrawl over and remark each certificate and each record with a scribed Alyster Gynn not the previous Alison Gynn or Aly Gynn – he changed his gender, his sex.
Born Female, but in the wrong body!
(As many may understand the phenomenon)
The certificates are pretty and someone had taken great care to exercise their calligraphy skills. Besides, a journey of life is a journey of Art or the other way around. Had the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome been made in his younger years, he would have understood why Art was such an essential part of his life. He would have understood so much more about himself, but that’s life!
(As many may understand the phenomenon)
He spent some years living in Suffolk UK, but for the most part he was born in Cornwall, grew up in Cornwall and lives there now. Born in 1961, He is getting on a bit now.
Well That’s decided. I am goings to write my memoirs. An autobiography. It will be called ‘Devon Was Born in Cornwall’ and will have some rarer elements of fiction incorporated. ‘Devon’ – as a character, will help me explain to the reader aspects needing some objectivity and distance (for myself and others)
It’s a big decision to follow this path of writing. The personal and how to be honest and truthful in the prose is crucial. I have the writing, the imagery, the facts and records. Finally, it seems that now… I have courage.
‘Devon Was Born In Cornwall’ a novel by Alyster Gynn
Full Publish Date March – 2016
from Chapter 26 – The Hurry.
Devon was born in Cornwall. And it was on a farm but not in a barn. Throughout his life he had ensured that every door he walked through had gently closed behind him. At seven years and ten days old, he had reminded himself of these facts during a rehearsal of the school nativity play. He happened to be wearing a costume which was supposed to make him look like one of the ‘Three Wise Men’, a reluctant contribution. There was nothing wise about the fact that he had a tea-towel flopped over his head and that he had spent most of the rehearsal worried that his head wear had ringed coffee stains.
Rachel Saunders had arrived on stage holding a naked plastic doll by its head, plonked herself down on a bale of hay and moaned that the crib was in the wrong place. The pious look on her face was a constant all year round and Devon was sure that it had happened one day when the wind had changed. He had quietly muttered a prayer that day, Thank God my parents didn’t call me Jesus!
(‘Devon’ – the Third Person Omniscient Narrator and Protagonist of my novel )
‘Devon Was Born In Cornwall’
Memoirs and image ©2010Gynn – full publish date March 2016