Art degree helps Peter understand himself following life-changing accident and Asperger’s diagnosis
A local dad says discovering a passion for art not only changed his life following a serious accident but taught him how to communicate.
Peter Mahoney, from Great Sankey in Warrington, graduated from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) this week with a Masters of Fine Art degree, something that 12 years ago “would’ve been inconceivable” he said.
The 45-year-old dad of four suffered a serious accident in 2011 that affected both his physical and mental health and left him needing a mobility scooter for several years. Before the accident, Peter had a successful 14-year career as a Vauxhall technician and it was following this life-changing incident, when he was at his lowest ebb, that Peter discovered a love of art.
"I had such a strong physical reaction to it [Claude Monet’s Haystacks painting] that I was struck numb. I’d never felt anything like that before and knew I had to explore it.”"— MA Fine Art graduate Peter Mahoney
He said: “By chance I saw a Claude Monet’s Haystacks painting at the Abbot Hall Gallery in Kendal and had such a strong physical reaction to it that I was struck numb. I’d never felt anything like that before and knew I had to explore it.”
Peter describes his accident as a “life defining moment” that led him down the path to first discovering that he has Asperger’s Syndrome and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and then starting to understand himself through art.
“This sudden reaction to art opened up a vulnerability in me and helped me to realise that I can have an emotional experience, something that I’d previously never really felt due to my conditions that were undiagnosed at this point” Peter said.
"I started painting and just followed my gut instincts, creating landscapes and seascapes at first."— MA Fine Art graduate Peter Mahoney
“I started painting and just followed my gut instincts, creating landscapes and seascapes at first. I also visited Paris with my wife Andrea to see more of Monet’s work and again felt a huge connection to it.”
Following his newfound passion, Peter took the plunge and applied to UCLan in 2019 to study for a degree in fine art.
He said: “Never in a million years did I think I’d go to university and definitely not to study art. Being at UCLan for the last four years has been an amazing experience and I don’t want it to stop.”
Peter’s creativity takes many forms including painting, 3D installations, videography and photography. He describes his approach to art as “like doing a jigsaw” and says he has learned to trust his intuition.
"I know now that I see things differently and studying art has allowed me explore this and flourish."— MA Fine Art graduate Peter Mahoney
“It’s only recently I realised that the running theme throughout my work is communication” he said. “I know now that I see things differently and studying art has allowed me explore this and flourish.”
Peter, who also has three grandchildren, is keen to continue his journey of self-discovery and has applied to study for PhD in fine art.
He added: “Graduation doesn’t feel like the end. It’s the beginning of the next stage. My sister Lindsey passed away in 2019 just before I came to university. Her final words to me were ‘be free Pete’ and that’s exactly what I intend to be.”