Artist from Peckham who suffered violence wants to help others paint through the trauma

An artist was shocked to see her work appear on T-shirts throughout Europe after expressing her pain at a violent attack – and now wants to help others heal through painting.

Melissa Hurst, 30, from Peckham, was the victim of violence in 2010 when she was stabbed repeatedly in the face and body.

It has taken her nearly a decade to overcome the traumatic experience, and Melissa said art helped her find the closure she needed.

“During that dark year of my life, I shut everyone out,” said Melissa. “But what I did do was paint. I didn’t care for painting but my best pieces came out when I was pissed off and angry. Then it got to a point where I’d only paint when I was pissed off and angry.

“I thought I’d paint a picture of myself. My story. To close the chapter. The emotions art lets out are very therapeutic.

“My case was very extreme. It was bad and I wanted to share with everyone that my life is good now.”

Melissa said she had stopped painting for a long time until the lockdown in spring gave her the urge to pick up a paintbrush again – five months later her painting was on a t-shirt made by one of the biggest clothing brands in the world.

“I never took my art seriously until lockdown,” she said. “In May I picked up a paintbrush again and painted something which I then put on Instagram as you do. A woman who lives nearby got in touch and asked she could buy it. I was so surprised.

“A month later she contacted me again and told me she was a marketing manager for GAP and asked me if I wanted to be involved with their Black History Month campaign. I couldn’t believe it.”

Melissa’s design was on t-shirts sold across Europe and said it represents strength and unity, and powerful people in Africa.

Now she wants to help others who have suffered violence, with a form of art therapy when the current lockdown is over, and says it will be even more important to do so as domestic violence cases surged during the last lockdown.

According to UK police statistics there was one domestic abuse call every 30 seconds in the first seven weeks of lockdown.

“Domestic violence during lockdown has sky rocketed and that’s so heartbreaking,” said Melissa. “They are so in love or frightened to speak up. Scared of the consequences or even embarrassed and worst case don’t even make it. But I honestly feel speaking up is a start.”

Melissa usually has painting events with friends at Spaces on Old Kent Road, when the lockdown is over she plans to hold art therapy painting events there too.

“Whether it be recently or in the past come and join me as we paint,”said Melissa. “Share our stories in brief. Paint what we’re feeling. Paint a memory or even paint how bright your future will be.

“I’m not saying that painting and drawing will solve everything but you’d be surprised how much hours go by once you’re in your zone just painting and being creative.

“Violence is something that’ll never fade Or leave my memory and I got the scars on my body as reminders.

“I feel proud that I was able to paint such a dark picture. The picture is me. My life. My history. My story.

“My situation was bad. But there are two sides to my face. That’s what the painting represents.”

If you wish to get in touch with Melissa about her art therapy classes you can reach her through her Instagram handle @m___londonart

Pictured top: Melissa Hurst


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