I, Vincent Van Gogh, born in Groot Zundert, where men grow pale like roots beneath the ground and visions are luxuries, brought my visions to Arles, where they sucked the light from the sky, danced through the orchards like blossom, and spun the moon-stars from their orbits in the dark-blue nights. I stared like some great flower at the sun and saw its burning image everywhere, torching the cornfields to a flaring gold. I felt I had to grasp familiar things, my smoke-charred pipe, my yellow chair, a pair of boots, the postman's honest face. But still the fury rose relentlessly, writhed upwards like the twisted cypresses, and seized and tore my unprotesting body. Then did I see the sadness that lies coiled like a grey snake at the root of things. The haunted corridors, the avenues of tragic trees. I found refuge in the kindly doctor's house, but I knew that some day in a solitary field of corn the black crows would gather in my skull and peck out my mind.
Julian Leff graduated in psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital in 1967. For the next 35 years he worked as a researcher and a psychiatrist, taking consultant responsibility for 12 admission beds. His main interest was in psychosis, both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He has a long-standing interest in art, with a particular focus on what is called ‘Outsider Art’. He attended adult education classes in experimental sculpture, silk-screen printing and silversmithing. He has acted as a judge in three national art competitions for people with schizophrenia, and is currently chair of the steering committee for a trial of art therapy for schizophrenia.
Chosen by Femi Oyebode.