Stages of Sleep


Billy Shannon

Acrylic on canvas
122 x 152cm


Stages of Sleep by Billy Shannon portrays Emma Hawthorne a singer/dancer for large touring musicals during the restorative process of sleep. As with most highly active people, Emma was in almost constant motion throughout her sleep sessions. Billy took this as an opportunity to express the various stages of sleep, in a painting that seems to follow Emma as she falls backwards into ever deeper sleep layers of sleep cycles and her brief awakenings, illustrating the fluidity and restorative nature of sleep.

On this, Billy says “Around the time that I was painting Stages of Sleep, 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.

“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.”

The multiple imagery that’s developed through tracking the movements of the ‘Sleepers’ is a recurrent theme in a few of the sleep series paintings, notably in Broken Sleep and Dark Matter, both paintings of highly active physical performers.

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