Art exhibition in Melbourne showcases works from people living with chronic disease…

Living with a chronic disease is not easy and having a hobby therapy can help. Couch Empire: Living with Chronic illness is an upcoming exhibition showcasing artwork from people living with health conditions and this runs from 11/03/2020 to 1/04/2020 at Gasworks, Albert Park. Lee Mason will be featured in the exhibition and shares his story of how art helps his journey with chronic disease.

Be killed by art not illness…

By Lee Mason

‘Find what you love and let it kill you.’ – Bukowski’s quote

I thought Bukowski’s quote must relate to finding the person you were meant to grow old with, but the quote took on different connotations as I got older.

Making art, finding my style and eliciting a reaction was a gas – I had found what I wanted to kill me. When I was young, I loved sketching weird monsters and scenarios wherein I was the hero saving the world from a terrible fate. They were always black ink on white paper. 

After a few years, my creativity mutated from sketches to words as I started writing scripts, filming and acting. I left that fantastical sketched world behind completely.

After a long health battle and many surgeries, my sleeping hours decreased dramatically. What do people do to pass the hours? To stymie pain? To get some god damn sleep? I’d written a screenplay just a month before my diagnosis and I had nothing left to write. So I picked up a canvas.

I painted an odd Mexican landscape with a lone gringo amongst a bunch of cacti.

‘Shit, is that gringo me and is that what I’m going through right now?!’ I thought.

Obsession lurked around my psyche. Painting could be the answer. The time and pain seemed to pass quicker when I had a brush in my hand and I loved having something to show for the time spent in pain and with insomnia.

‘Wait, I could do this on my own, whenever I wanted? About whatever I wanted?’ I asked myself.

I wasn’t limited to the version of storytelling found in the plays I’d written or been in. It was freeing.

The painting garnered a few interested observations. I decided that yes, painting was a great way to spend my waking hours – not just the ones where I had no choice. I continued slapping paint on canvas. Some pieces reflected my inner feelings, but mostly they were just fun faces and vistas. 

Colour exploded across the scenes. 

I loved the work of Picasso, Pollock and Nolan and set about trying out different styles and mediums.

At this point I still don’t have a particular style but there’s no hurry. The journey to find my style is where the real gold is at.

I am not political in my work and believe that the best artists stick to the craft. I literally paint what pleases me. I let me impulses fly like jazz.  If other people dig it, grand.

I had an exhibition in 2018 and in 2019 I went into remission for Crohn’s Disease and have slightly more energy for painting, basketball, kart racing.

Working with the mighty Couch Empire was a natural fit for me. I wanted to help other people with chronic illnesses earn money from their creativity and I was excited to display my work in another exhibition. You can see my work, and the work of four other artists, in the upcoming Couch Empire exhibition at Gasworks in Melbourne. To find out more, go to or follow @couchempire on Facebook.