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- An Exhibition of Work by John Paterson (1947-1998)

John Paterson

Behind the title of the next exhibition at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum lies a story of courage and hope. John Paterson (1947-1998), spent his life caring for others as a Psychiatric Nurse, but he was also a graduate of Glasgow School of Art and attended a post-graduate course in Art Therapy at Goldsmiths in London.

As well as nursing, John continued to draw and paint. For him, it was a means of processing the life experiences of those he cared for. He was unaware, that his own life would place the ultimate demand on his art. Slowly, at the end of the 80s, John became aware of a personal threat, as yet unidentified. As the 90s dawned, John became even more aware of being under attack. He felt his strength being drained away as if a tap was left dripping in his side.

John Paterson In 1992, John announced to his family that he was taking two years out of nursing to concentrate on his art. During this time, John drew and painted everyday losing all sense of time. There was a sense of being driven, that time was short and a need to process what he was going through. Eventually, he was unable to wield his brushes. Determined to never give up, he returned to his profession for what was to be a short time. When a colleague advised him about drinking on duty, John was forced to seek medical help. John didn't drink.

Tests revealed that he had CIDP, a rare form of Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) a neurological condition that affects feet and hands and can rapidly cause paralysis. Although there is no cure, treatments have proved effective and John's treatments started immediately. The majority of people make a full recovery, with people like Tony Benn and Morton Wieghorst being among the better-known cases. John did not recover and when doctors investigated, they diagnosed Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and told John's wife Catherine that he wouldn't see the end of the year.

John was virtually unique in being diagnosed with both GBS and MND and he and his wife drew heavily on their faith when they became aware of the prognosis. John's former tutor at Glasgow School of Art described him as an extraordinarily kind man and exceptional draughtsman. John brought these two qualities together when, with his wife Catherine, they started The Dochas Fund. Using his art to help others was the perfect answer to John's question, what purpose his art served? Cards and prints of his work were produced and their sales support others whose lives are affected by either pernicious condition.

'Creativity: the true art of therapy' is an exhibition of original work that covers John's life from the 70s through to the last pieces produced in 1994. In spite of its background, this show is not depressing or sad. The exhibition displays john's love of life, his resolution that no matter how bleak life can be, there is always hope. This is reflected in the name of the charity he founded, Dochas is Gaelic for hope and also the motto of his adopted hometown, Lochgilphead in Argyll.

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