'You don't have to let it destroy you' - Norfolk artist speaks about the harrowing assault which sparked her work
PUBLISHED: 07:00 29 April 2019 | UPDATED: 08:31 29 April 2019
A Norfolk artist who has won over the international art world with her explosive abstract pieces has spoken about the harrowing story behind her work.
East Harling artist Jamie Hawkins was 18 she was sexually assaulted, resulting in a 14-year battle with post traumatic stress disorder.
She attempted to take her own life at 22 and was put on a course of medication and therapy.
But, late last year, the 32-year-old picked up a paint brush for the first time and said the sense of release was unlike anything she had experienced before.
She said: “It just felt different. I was so overloaded with emotion and that release was overwhelming. I put everything into the painting and often I can't move for several days after because it's so physically and emotionally exhausting.”
Her work caught the eye of an old friend and art expert, Bam Douglas, who convinced the artist to share it further afield.
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In the months that followed Ms Hawkin's career took off and she featured at venues across the country, including the prestigious Saatchi Gallery in London.
The artist confessed that she found her sudden success daunting initially.
She said: “The story behind the work is a sensitive subject and often makes people feel uncomfortable, so I was concerned about the reaction. Beyond my immediate family I have kept it hidden for many years and for those outside it was a shock.”
The public response, however, was enough to convince the artist to keep going.
She said: “People suffering with mental health contacted me to say the work helped them. That changed everything for me and took away my fear a bit.”
She is working with the Harbour Centre in Wymondham, a charity which provides support for people affected by sexual violence.
Although Ms Hawkins admits she will never recover from her traumatic past, she said her focus is now on owning the experience.
She said: “From the night I was assaulted everything changed and it will never go back. You learn to cope but there's no forgetting. But now I'm turning it into a positive and showing others you can flip it round. You can find your thing rather than letting it destroy you.”