J Nash: Two Feet In The Wardrobe

Over time the space has become too small.
It was the perfect fit before.
Feel the surface....
The Wooden boards now rough like bark,
To remember the dust on feet,
The Splinters embedded under fingernails.
Touch the walls that were meant to protect but instead trapped.
They whisper as fingertips brush the texture of the wallpaper.
Listen. Is it him? No.
Why would he reply, he didn’t then?
Is it the distant language of something else?
Why couldn’t the voices leave him alone?
“We asked at the time and the doctor told us it wasn’t hereditary.”
Why won’t they stop even now they have passed down?
I wish they would stop.
I can’t go to Narnia.
But I know the way to him and one day I may take it.

Nash is a documentary and protest photographer by training and trade, specifically focused on LGBTQ+ Pride and Stand Up To Racism. Nash also documents their local, predominantly Muslim, community in East London and portrays them as the integrated, hard working members of the UK society that they are. Nash sees this practice as using their white and heterosexual privilege* to amplify the voices of the BAME and LGBTQ+ community and break the media narrative that is driving the country to the political right. (*Identifying as nonbinary, Nash passes as straight and therefore feels this places them in an LQBTQ ally position from which they can use their photography as a tool to fight stereotypes and strive for equality. Yes!)

This series of 8 personal images, taken in the house they grew up in, and the poem that accompanies them, are within the perimeters of their personal art practice utilising their own methodology of AutoPathography which they developed from the work of photographic artist Dr. Spencer Rowell.

Nash frequently experiments with different methods of deconstruction and reconstruction of self portraits, in an attempt to draw content from the unconscious into the conscious as research into photographic abstract expressionism (by their reckoning, a movement started by photographers and not the fine art painters. We’d tend to agree.)

They confront past trauma in self portraiture sessions which enables them to access deep memories and converse with elements of their history that were thought to have been abandoned to the unconscious. This practice-based methodology of SoloPhototherapy is derived from the work of Rosy Martin and Jo Spence who developed phototherapy in the 80’s.

Nash documents spaces of memory and appropriates PTSD desensitising, reintegrative CBT treatments such as returning to sites of past trauma to interrogate or confront them using their camera.

Nash was keen to show this work in the context of a dolls house because of the obvious link to childhood memory. They were also drawn to the novelty of showing with us because, in their own words, “I’ve shown in a lot of galleries but never a miniature one!”

PS. J Nash’s instagram account is brilliant: @sullenriotphotography

J Nash‘s TWO FEET IN THE WARDROBE show installed on the ground floor of Small House Two. (The bottom/basement floor is, here, used as the gallery’s ‘reception area’.

Without wanting to sound schmaltzy, patronising or twee…

We’re honoured to have been entrusted with this intensely personal, poignant work, made playful by nature of its now minute scale. Their sparse compositions connect to a deep personal language that is universally relatable; the chiaroscuro lighting very much reflects the fact that life can be mercilessly dark, but it is also, mercifully, light at times, too, and, by no means black and white.


It also feels necessary to say that Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 was 1-7 February, and that (Adult) Mental Health Awareness Week is going to be 10-16 May 2021. And that it’s always a good time for mental health awareness and self care, especially during these universally difficult times.

The brilliant Place2Be does art therapy in schools and lists free resources for schools, families and youth groups here: https://www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/

For information on where to go for urgent help for children in mental health crisis in the UK: https://www.place2be.org.uk/page/get-urgent-help/

A good resource for adults not in crisis is Mental Health Foundation: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health

For adults currently affected by mental health issues (in the UK) some help lines are listed here https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/getting-help or more direct links can be found here: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/getting-help

If you’ve been affected by any of the themes here and you need to talk to someone right now:

The Samaritans offer emotional support 24 hours a day – in full confidence.

  • Call 116 123 – it’s FREE

Or email jo@samaritans.org.uk


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