Berwick-Based Artist Amy Izat's Perfectly Imperfect Artwork
Inspirational Berwick-based artist Amy Izat tells us how her sketches symbolise the challenges she’s faced since partially losing her sight
Amy’s brain haemorrhage was caused by an arteriovenous malformation (when a group of blood vessels in your body forms incorrectly), and it changed her life forever. Flown from Sardinia to Newcastle’s RVI, Amy battled her way through numerous operations. Complications followed, including a stroke and the loss of feeling down her left side – and the more operations Amy had, the more of her sight she lost.
Understandably, Amy’s mental health deteriorated. ‘Spending all that time in hospital you begin to forget what it’s like outside the ward,’ she explains. But just as she was losing hope, the doctors summoned her Labrador, Teasel, to visit her as a reminder of what was waiting for her when she was able to leave. ‘I thought, come on Amy, get yourself together and get out of here.’ When her vision deteriorated even further and she lost the central point of focus, she hit another low, but luckily, managed to find positivity in the world around her.
‘With classical art, you’re creating an exact likeness of someone. But now when I look at someone, I can’t see their whole face,’ Amy explains. ‘That’s been very emotionally difficult to get my head around. My 20s have been a constant journey. While all my friends are out having fun (and some who also studied in Florence have now graduated), I think of what could have been. However, I’m now sitting in my own gallery in my hometown and I’ve had my first exhibition in London which was amazing. The people I’ve met are so inspiring and they’ll be friends for life. I’ve just lived very differently to most people.’
The exhibition, Windows of the Soul (which was on display at UCL Culture Museum in Bloomsbury, Lumen Church in London, and then Moorfields Eye Hospital), was an insight into the visual experiences of those living with sight impairment. ‘I was approached by somebody who was following my health journey on Instagram,’ Amy says. ‘We were asked to produce work reflecting how we see the world. I was thinking about how I could portray my journey in a beautiful way. I’ve never wanted to be a victim of the situation I’m in. I’ve just always wanted to help and inspire people.’
Amy chose birds to represent her story because of their symbolism. ‘Each bird represents a part of my journey,’ she explains. ‘A robin for the spiritual side, wrens because they’re hardy, and a raven for the darker times. I’d drawn these birds like I would if I was doing a pet portrait. I worked for weeks on end trying to get these birds in perfect proportion but when I took a step back and looked at the drawings, I couldn’t actually see the whole bird. I got someone I trusted to erase a part of the bird that I’d worked for ages on to make it more true to me. When I look at the birds eye, there’s a part of the drawing I can’t see and that’s what has been taken away. The idea of them taking away something that was once perfect reflects how I felt when I lost my vision, and the frustration I felt as my work was being erased is symbolic of the frustration I experienced.’
Since the exhibition, Amy has been inundated with emails from people explaining how her story has inspired them and made them look at their life in a different light – and Amy hopes to continue inspiring others.
But who inspires her? ‘When I hit a low point, and was really angry with everything that had happened and blamed myself, I attended a talk by a lady called Zdenka Fantlova. She’s a Holocaust survivor and wrote a book called The Tin Ring. She’d been through horror and lost everything she loved. The love of her life made a ring for her and said as long as she holds onto that, she’d be okay. It’s the whole idea that by holding onto faith, you can achieve anything in life. It doesn’t necessarily have to be God if you don’t believe in that, it could be the universe. A few days after the talk, I asked my mum to drive me to the beach and it was the first time I could see where the sea fell onto the sand, and that was enough. I can see enough beauty in the world to look at it positively.’
Three words to describe yourself.
Hardy, positive and sensitive.
Three words to describe your art.
Sensitive, detailed and delicate.
Your favourite artist?
I love Constable. I love Rembrandt. He’s probably my favourite because he doesn’t always flatter a person; he paints their true character.
Your favourite thing about Northumberland?
I’m extremely passionate about Northumberland. Everyone asks when I’m going to move out of Berwick – but I don’t think I will! I love being near the sea and the coastline here is just beautiful. It’s so vast with nothing disrupting it.
Plans for 2022?
I’ve just moved into a gallery on Bridge Street and I’m hoping to get that properly set up and create a base here. I hope to run mindful art classes, have guest artists and get my cards and prints out on a commercial basis. I want to keep up with commissions too. I’d love to continue the course in Florence whenever that’s possible.