Chemo day drawings (Series 1)

Since January 2019 I have been on maintenance chemo for bowel cancer. On each treatment day – generally every fortnight – various medical solutions drip into my body over about 5-6 hours and I draw.

I  allow marks to go through the paper from one drawing to the next and use that as the next starting point, as well as marks made when using the paper as an underlay for other drawings, so the marks provide a history. By the end of the day, my eyes are rather blurry making it hard to see! The folds, crumples and tears in the paper are an intrinsic part of the work in which the paper can be seen as a reflection of the fragility of the body.

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All pieces 34.5x26cm, ink and marker pens on Chinese calligraphy practice paper.

Video of the installation

Essay by Simon Bill: Clare Smith-Chemo day drawings_simon bill


The drawings are abstract, and, mostly, very dense. Abstract, but not non-representational. Far from it. The imagery is rich in associations; one in particular – The
drawings can look very much like the sort of thing you might expect to see in a biology textbook or academic journal. The forms are cellular, amoebic, protozoan. This places the work squarely within an art historical context. The visual language of the Chemo day drawings is emphatically the artist’s own, and yet, with its redolence of the imagery generated by the life sciences, it can be seen as a new iteration of an approach that goes back to the origins of abstraction, more than 100 years ago.


Besides their roots in the history of abstraction there are other, more autobiographical, precedents for this body of work, seen as the measured response to an inordinate, profoundly challenging situation – Antonin Artaud’s notebooks, produced in 1945 whilst incarcerated at the asylum in Rodez; Ronald Searle’s war drawings, made whilst he was a POW in Burma. How can we characterise works of art made by an artist who is ill, and which may not have been realised if they had not been? Symptoms? Of course not. Perhaps as a sort of treatment? Art therapy? Not that either. The closest analogy, I would like to suggest, is with alchemy. The process through which base matter is turned in to gold


“‘folds, crumples and tears in the paper..intrinsic part of this work in which the paper can be seen as a reflection of the fragility of the body’ more chemo day drawings from @ClareGSmith — pictorially poignant, beautiful rendering of moments in time (link:…”

(a-n blogs)

I love these - they are so strong

( Franny Swann)

These are fantastic! so powerful and beautiful! You are amazing!

(Griselda Mussett)


(Anne Perry)

Very beautiful

(Clare Summons)

Congratulations. They are brilliant

(Euphemia MacTavish)

Aug 21
Another chemo drawing.
@ClareGSmith continues to make work during chemotherapy. How inspiring is this? Such positivity from an artist determined to make (and exhibit) whatever the parameters.. Onwards..

(a-n artists newsletter)


Do follow this extraordinary, life-enhancing, evolving cycle of drawings by Clare Smith. Just wonderful

(Peter Sheppard Skaerved)

Magnificent Clare! I really think these woks are amazing and getting more and more exiting. Sorry they come at a cost.

(Kate Beaugie)

The colour is amazing. Been trying to find the artist that your colour reminds me of - it's Helen Frankenthaler.

(Ruth Geldard)

You amaze me how you make these beautiful images xx

(Sue Carney)