Rebecca Wallersteiner talks to artist Sarah Ezekiel, who – despite suffering from Motor Neurone Disease – creates stunning artwork using just her eyes.
Sarah Ezekiel’s pictures burst with colour, vitality and joie de vivre. An exhibition of her work of the last three years will be shown at the Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead from 11 June. These beautiful pictures give little hint that for the past 15 years Sarah has been dealing with Motor Neurone Disease, which severely affects the central nervous system.
Film-fans will be familiar with the extraordinary story of the physicist Professor Stephen Hawking who was diagnosed with a slow form of this illness at 21; Actor Eddie Redmayne recently won an Oscar for his sensitive portrayal of Hawking in the film The Theory of Everything
“Generally I am very positive, despite my illness and disability. I’ve always loved colour, which people see in my home. No magnolia for me!” Ezekiel jokes. Her courageous story offers inspiration and hope for thousands of people and their families who face a similar situation. Ezekiel requested to be interviewed by email, as like Professor Hawking, her speech and mobility have been affected by her illness.
The artist creates her work digitally, using her eyes to paint on a Tobii eyegaze computer. Simple, yet bold in execution, her vibrant pictures startle the eye with their immediacy. One of the highlights in her new exhibition will be her Tree of Life, with branches swirling with abandonment, rather like lovers’ arms. This artwork was commissioned by the MND Association in 2014. “It includes the Hebrew letters, Chai, meaning life, and also the number 18 which have special meaning for me. My son and daughter were both born on the 18th and they have been my motivation to live. Tree of Life reflects my spirituality and roots. I am a spiritual person and everything I create reflects that,” explains Ezekiel
Would she agree that art in hospitals and hospices can help people feel less anxious and depressed? “Art definitely helps people who are ill. I have attended art therapy sessions at my hospice which enable people to express their feelings through art,” says Sarah.
“I love the colourful paintings of Matisse, Klimt and Modigliani and also draw inspiration from nature and my environment.”
Apart from being the secretary of the North West London Branch of the MND Association since 2012, Sarah is on the board of the charity, Movement for Hope. Her art has been exhibited all over the UK, including the Royal Academy Schools and also at the Katara Art Centre in Qatar. With Hector Minto, she started the Eyegazeartists website to encourage other artists who need special technology.
Ezekiel is full of praise for the nurses at the Marie Curie hospice in Hampstead, which she has been attending for 14 years, since her diagnosis. “The staff are amazing and I’m planning to donate the proceeds from my sales to the hospice,” she enthused.
Sarah Ezekiel’s Solo Show runs from 11 June to 5 July, with an open afternoon on Sunday 14June, at the Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead. Barclays are sponsoring the private view on 11 June