Stages of Sleep


Billy Shannon

Acrylic on canvas
122 x 152cm


“Emma Hawthorne is a singer/dancer for large, touring musicals. As with most physical performers, she rolled around quite a lot during her several ‘sleep sessions’, so I just kept painting her as she moved. For me, this painting shows Emma’s sleep unravelling her day’s activities and indicates her self-nurturing nature and positive life choices.

“Around the time that I was painting this, I started researching the science and structure of sleep, which inspired some thoughts in Emma’s painting by the various layers of sleep cycles. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep is when we dream, but it follows 3 non-rem periods (N1, N2 and N3) each with different EEG patterns and healing properties. We have several sleep cycles throughout the night lasting about 45 minutes each and in between each cycle we often wake for a few seconds, although we forget it by the morning. I tried to depict the feeling of her moving between the cycles and even breaching the surface of sleep during one of these moments of waking.”

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