Broken Sleep


Billy Shannon

Acrylic on canvas
138 x 102cm

This painting features in Sleepers Awake, our current exhibition


Broken Sleep by Billy Shannon is an evocative painting that captures the contemporary dancer, Richard Causer,  amid disturbed sleep. The painting is an exploration of living with disjointed sleep and dreams. Causer, formally a performer with Expressions Dance Company, perceives the shape of sleep as incomplete and Billy uses fragmented and erratic shapes to mirror the nature of his sleeping consciousness, giving the figure a sense of falling through the mind’s untamed creativity of this mental phase.

Billy delves into the phenomenon of creativity born from dreams via the painting’s dark, interrupted lines and shapes that reflect the sleeper’s subconscious navigation through the night, a vivid representation of the mysterious state that borders wakefulness and repose. There’s a fascinating link between disturbed sleep patterns and heightened creativity. Some studies suggest that irregular sleep may increase access to unconscious thoughts and enhance the ability to make novel connections. This could be due to the brain’s state during and after interrupted sleep, which may simulate the free-association phase of the creative process. Notably, many historical creative figures had unconventional sleep habits, suggesting that such irregularities might foster a unique mental environment conducive to creativity.

Dreams have long been reservoirs of inspiration, from scientific breakthroughs to timeless works of art. Broken Sleep by Billy Shannon becomes an introspective canvas, suggesting that even in the chaos of sleep, there’s a dance of ideas, a choreography of the mind unfolding its deepest creative expressions.

The artwork beckons viewers to consider the duality of sleep – both its vulnerability and its potent link to creativity, Billy intertwines the physical grace of Richard’s dance with the enigmatic and ethereal nature of dream-induced creation, offering a glimpse into the profound depths where our latent thoughts find form and expression.

This painting features in Sleepers Awake, our current exhibition of Billy Shannon‘s ‘Sleep Series’, a series which has been a significant inspiration for most of the last decade of his work.

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