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Thalma Goldman Cohen – Recovery through art

Created on:
February 24, 2017
Written By:
Frankie Graham

Over the past 10 years I have made hundreds of artworks from my time spent in betting shops. They came naturally to me because I could recognise myself in the people that I saw there. I am everyone, too. There were several stops and starts to my gambling career, I was constantly looking to find my way through the darkness – but I knew I had to get control. 

I still use creative projects to focus myself. When I was gambling heavily, I had to find a creative outlet and make things to compensate for all my losses, like I had to make up for them. Whenever I lost I would feel a vacuum and whether I filled this through creative projects or my family, there was a void I felt which I had to focus my energy on. Many of my subjects I transformed, finding light in their darkness. One man who was literally crippled I transfigured into a bright, strong and powerful man. I always wanted to give my character’s life. I did this transformative act to cope with the loss and sadness I was creating myself through my gambling. I would visit the betting shops as both a gambler and an artist. I always felt quite detached from places I gambled in, like an outsider, but I am everyone, too. Sometimes the works were simply depictions of what I saw and felt in the subject, not everything should be transformed. 

I had a dream seeing the betting shops like a sea, the same sea which in my youth I would visit every day. I felt that money and time I spent in bookmakers reflected the turmoil and chaos I loved about the sea. I knew I was being destructive but I felt that I had control over this and there was of course the attraction of winning! 

I felt like it was something that I had to go through. During this period, I was always creating – it was necessary. In my dreams, I revisited the seas of my youth, I was going through great pain due to the passing of my father and I saw gambling as a challenge to myself. I my dream I saw faceless people to whom I bought the rights to enter the seas some of which held difficult memories for me. Now I have some closure and continue to produce art, in the hope that the depictions I make give insight and understanding to any others who might have gone through what I did