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Sales of the Way Through Catalogue produced by Phil Thompson with photography by Random Ninja Productions and part-funded by Scotmid Community will go to Kids Kicking Cancer South Africa.  Alison visited Capetown immediately after coming off chemotherapy in October 2017 to help open a new Intensive Care Unit at the Red Cross Childrens Hospital and there encountered the Rabbi at work.  She was hugely moved by the presence in his workshop of a 3 year old African girl with a tube in her nose and without family support and the power that the Kids Kicking Cancer work was having for her.  Alison has used these techniques since.


A surreal artistic journey through life-threatening illness on the North East coast was to reach its climax on 1st March but has had to  be rearranged for Tuesday 6th March due to the Beast from the East.  “After battling cancer since autumn 2016 the recent storms bring no fear” said Alison Chandler who has created “The Suitcase” as a interactive feature of the 5 month long “Way Through” touring art exhibition launching at Aberdeen Arts Centre. “Throughout the exhibition visitors will find images of the Wolf that for me meant fear – a more awesome beast than any snowstorm but the aim of the Way Through Projecct is to reach out a message of hope to the widest audience so cancelling the opening made sense.” .The interactive installation sits beside 70 framed paintings by Alison (60) from the fishing village of Johnshaven, cut off from the city on Thursday 1st..  The artist’s prolific creativity has been a response to emergency surgery for rare abdominal cancer in 2016 and developed through 16 cycles of chemotherapy at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary throughout 2017.  The brightly coloured and original iconography of the ink, watercolour and acrylic paintings were produced almost daily for 10 months.


“Often I was painting with one arm while the other was plugged into an intravenous drip. “ says Alison.  “Other people find the images startling but for me they evoked strength and hope. I also tried to use humour to consider body image and identity and explore how art is used worldwide in religion and mythology. I used intense detail to fill my days while waiting for and then undergoing treatment. Sometimes all I could do was ‘dot, dot, dot’ on a page.  Other times I had a roller-coaster of emotions to express as the year went on.”


The Suitcase was created in a battered antique case covered in travel labels from the past. Its contents have been produced in a limbo between treatments.  “It is my way of considering what it is that we take with us on the Way through life, by choice or force of will.” said Alison. “It is three-dimensional, tactile and interactive in contrast to the pictures offered for sale”


 “It will keep changing as I and exhibition visitors interact with it.  It will be re-ordered as it is explored – with participants rummaging through it.  It is continuous without a finish point – I keep painting and making and writing.”


It includes paintings but also text in many forms, objets trouvees (found objects), hand crafted objects in wire and embroidery and items provided by or made from materials provided by the artists’ friends, family etc.  The paintings were made in the artist’s NE Scottish village home or hospital bed during tumultuous world events of 2017 and “The Suitcase” has a deliberate international dimension in its materials and contents, again some contributed to by others. 


Aberdeen City Council Cultural Lead, Councillor Marie Boulton said “I’m absolutely delighted to be involved with this project as the subject matter, I think, touches everybody’s lives sadly at some point.  I think the project will inspire people to realise the importance of diversions and coping strategies”



The exhibition  will tour through March to end July from Aberdeen to Dunbar in East Lothian to  venues as diverse as Aberdeen Arts Centre, Johnshaven Heritage Hub, The Bass Rock Gallery, Newton Dee Camphill community, and Glencraft’s Aberdeen Showroom with more in discussion.  A voluntary “Way Through Project” committee of health/wellbeing and arts professionals has raised £8000 plus pro bono help through crowdfunding and donations from Jimmy Milne, Chairman of The Balmoral Group Holdings, Scotmid, Fotheringham Property Developments and Cover Crew Ltd. It aims to provide selected NHS and community health/wellbeing centres with a photographic book of the complete collection of pictures, a high quality professionally produced documentary short film, a video with original music composed for the project and a website.  These will encourage contemplation,  stimulate discussion and support creativity in others. Proceeds from the event catalogue will be donated to Kids Kicking Cancer in South Africa who Alison met on a post-chemo visit to Capetown, South Africa and any picture sales will be invested in the artist’s ongoing projects including return pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (Way of St James) in NW Spain which inspired Alison before she was ill and lent the project its title ‘Way’.


Materials such as canvasses, inks and paints were donated as were expert curation and cataloguing by professional artists Stephanie Vandem and Phil Thompson.  All other time on the project has been donated and social enterprises such as Rosies Social Enterprises engaged for venues and framing.  The Way Through website created by young entrepreneur Chris Hegharty of Random Ninja Productions will develop to provide an ongoing link for artists, patients, health professionals and community organisations and prompt further reading on how diverse mythologies and cultures respond to life’s challenges. A film by award-winning film-maker Tim Langford will be launched at the Johnshaven Heritage Hub on 3rd April.


Further information on the project is available at


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Editiorial Notes:


Press Preview (by arrangement) 6.00pm March 1st Aberdeen Arts Centre


Alison Chandler works (part-time) at ACVO, 38 Castle Street, Aberdeen AB11 5YU Tel 01224 686058


Home 01561 362996

Mobile 07815008709

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Aberdeen Arts Centre,

33 King Street, Aberdeen, AB24 5AA
Tel: (01224) 635 208


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Paula Gibson -

"What a happy happy night with the best of friends. Massive congratulations to the force of nature that is Alison Chandler . Your paintings are astonishing. And the suitcase...... Would take a week to check out the contents of that treasure chest. Exhibition lasts till end of March at Aberdeen Arts Centre. Miss it at your peril!"


Susan Walker -

"I'm so pleased to have made the journey to Aberdeen today, to attend the opening of my cousin Alison Chandler's exhibition. I had seen many of the paintings on Facebook but seeing them full size framed and hanging in a gallery was something else - the intricate detail, fine brush strokes and glorious colour are magnificent. Alison has battled through a horrible rare cancer and painting was her "Way Through" all the chemo. Her paintings described her thoughts and feelings when words couldn't. Very proud to share a few genes with this wonderful woman."


Tess Day

“What a wonderful opening night at @AberdeenArtCentre for the art exhibition ‘Way through’ with Alison Chandler it really is worth a visit.”

Others -

"Absolutely wonderful"

"A FAB event"


"You did absolutely amazing tonight."


"We were both thoroughly impressed and pleased we came along. I am so happy you decided to frame and exhibit your work. and I hope you will continue to do so. As you said, we both survived emergency procedures and defied the odds. We are both living proof of what lies within, as the strength of our forebears testifies. Long may it be so."


"Your strength and determination has been an inspiration from when we first met."


"What a body of work. Really great to be involved."

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