Joanna Holland: Out of the Blue: Landscapes of Chronic Illness

28 July – 8 October 2023, Gallery 2

Joanna Holland’s first solo exhibition, ‘Out of the Blue’, shares her lived experience of chronic illness. It brings together photographs, video, soundscapes and text from different bodies of work created over the last three years. Visit Joanna Holland’s website by clicking here to explore more work.
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Collectively these works contemplate what it is to live ‘a life disrupted’, offering an insight into autoimmunity (where the body’s own immune system causes inflammation and damage). Joanna lives with, amongst other conditions, a rare blood vessel disorder and ankylosing spondylitis. In this exhibition she invites audiences to view her lived experience through the lens of a specific encounter:

Several years ago, I suddenly lost all my colour vision – apart from the colour blue. A blue so vivid that it hurt to look at it. I didn’t know at the time, but I was experiencing cyanopsia (everything tinted with blue) and photophobia (extreme light sensitivity). A possible rare side effect of immunosuppressant medication. My vision returned but this experience has had a profound effect on my practice.

The artworks in this exhibition share very real experiences of diagnosis, medication, side effects, chronic fatigue, hospitalisation, and the impact of [in]visible disability on family life. They also explore an interconnectedness with nature, and the complex entanglements between self, planetary health, climate change and biodiversity loss.
The idea of ‘landscape’ is central to the works in this exhibition. Part real and part imagined, Joanna’s landscapes consider the synthetic and the natural, alongside notions of stress and solace.
An upward view of trees with branches reaching toward each other, all with a blue tint.
A staircase leading up to the right corner, with a blue tint.
A staircase leading up to the left corner, with a blue tint.
Branches and grass close-up, with a blue tint.
Many reflect on tensions between a desire to be immersed in natural (free) landscapes against all-consuming, restrictive, medicalised (confined) landscapes. Where an overwhelming desire for remoteness and solitude has to be continually balanced with the reality of chronic fatigue and not having enough energy to get back home. Artworks also contemplate the emotional toll of such containment, control and limits.

Sometimes the beauty is in the shadows and the horror in the everyday.

Joanna Holland is a socially engaged research-artist & curator. She is interested in how we live equitably with each other and our planet. Her investigative practice builds on her background in feminist art histories, cultural inclusion, and biodiversity conservation – alongside her lived sensory experience. She’s a passionate advocate of inclusive practice and is driven by the belief that difference, a plethora of voices and stories, give meaning to our world and enable more powerful experiences for everyone.
Joanna has worked for/with The British Library, Cambridge Conservation Initiative, Cambridge Curiosity & Imagination, The National Archives, The National Endowment for Science, Technology & the Arts, the RNIB, The Science Museum, SENSE, Tate Britain, Tate Modern and The University of Cambridge Museums & Botanic Garden. She lives and works in Cambridgeshire.
’Out of the Blue’ will be touring to originalprojects in Great Yarmouth (21 October – 17 December) where Joanna will be collaborating with artists Caroline Cardus, Genevieve Rudd and Dolly Sen. Selected works will also be featured on Wysing Arts’ digital platform ‘Wysing Broadcasts’ later this year. ‘Out of the Blue: Landscapes of Chronic Illness’ has been supported by Arts Council, England.

Audio Descriptions

Audio descriptions of artworks in the exhibition are available via QR code in the gallery. Please bring your own smartphone and headphones or contact the exhibition organisers in advance if this is not possible. Audio descriptions are also available to download here.