In The Broken Places

“The world breaks everyone
and afterward many are strong in the broken places”
Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell To Arms. 1929

Towards the end of April 2016, I had heart attack. Strangely it also affected my eyes and left me with a very reduced area of focus. A bit like looking at the world through a macro lens. Even so, I was lucky.

I was in the right place, I had what was obviously a heart attack, I received immediate treatment at a specialist coronary unit (The Golden Jubilee Hospital) and I was enrolled in a clinical study that aims to improve long term outcomes. I was very lucky.

Am I the same as before? Probably not. Anyone who goes through a major trauma is likely to be broken, perhaps not visibly, but the cracks, however faint, will still be there. 

The Japanese term Wabi-Sabi has no literal translation into english. Even the Japanese find it difficult to put in words its true meaning. It is a way to appreciate the things you see and touch. It is a beauty found in the imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. It is the beauty of the modest and humble and is a beauty found in the unconventional. It is from this aesthetic appreciation that the Kintsugi technique of mending broken pottery with tree resin and gold was developed to enable a much loved, yet worn and broken piece have a new lease of life and be brought back into daily use, stronger in the broken places. 

My images are usually about finding beauty in ignored and forgotten spaces. So, I suppose it’s only natural, that with this very personal series, I’m trying to find beauty in those things and places that have played, or continue to play, a part in my treatment and recovery – their wabi-sabi. 

But, this isn’t enough. I need to do more.

While in hospital I spoke to others that weren’t so lucky. Where my heart attack was a scream, theirs was a whimper. And that is worse.  Because they waited, they didn’t want to be a bother. Perhaps thinking it would go away, they waited not minutes, nor just hours, but in one case days. And, with every minute they delayed, the likelihood of irreversible damage to their heart muscle increased.

Quite simply, time is muscle, and by delaying they were drastically reducing their chance of a positive outcome.

And so, my aim is to create a much larger body of work that can raise awareness of this issue, along with current research that is being done to improve outcomes. This will be a collaboration with others and feature a range of media including animation, video, ceramics, and a series of art competitions aimed at artists and makers, art students and school pupils, the elderly and the young, to create an exhibition that can act as a focus for discussion, be used for community outreach by researchers and rehab groups and increase awareness of many issues around heart health, treatment and particularly the message – Time Is Muscle – if in doubt, don’t wait, the sooner you act, the better outcome you and your family will have.

But ultimately, for me this is about being lucky, and finding a way to share that luck with others.

We will shortly be making an application for funding to Creative Scotland, but to give us the best chance possible of being successful, we need to find other sources of funding and your support could make all the difference. We would like to try and raise at least £1,000 to show that we have public support for the project, and so have started a crowdfunding campaign on please give what you can, as numbers of donations, is as important, as amount. 

Our Time Is Muscle crowdfunding page is here :

Thank you!

I would like to thank the Crosshouse Rehab team, the Golden Jubilee Hospital and the T-Time clinical trial team, as many of these images just couldn’t have been made, without the time, support and access that all have given me. Thank you.

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