Over the past few years, I've noticed my sensitivity to the chemicals in many types of paint has become so acute that even a faint whiff of nail polish can make me feel queasy. My reaction to enamel's carcinogenic fumes is more extreme but somehow I've grown used to the idea that nausea, a sore throat, blistered, itchy skin, blurred vision and nose-bleeds are all part of a day's work for me.Yesterday, my boyfriend dragged me to a local doctor. I'd been vomiting and feeling like death for 24 hours following a long stint at what I call 'the enamel factory', in Sydney's western suburbs, where I've been spending an increasing number of days (and nights) putting the finishing touches to the last of my commissioned Dangerous Career Babes. The doctor's demeanour as he peered into my ears, nose and throat and listened to the faint wheeze in my lungs was a grim reality check: "It's simple," he said. "You have to stop using enamel immediately. The risk of cancer is very high." He drew four vials of blood from my arm and organised for me to have a series of x-rays and a respiration assessment done.
I'm unlikely to stop using the medium any time soon. I still have at least a dozen large paintings I want to complete. But once they're done, I'll immerse myself in other, less toxic media for a while. It might be interesting to delve again – as I did to some extent in my Venus In Hell watercolours, three years ago – into what lies beneath the brittle, shiny, candy-coloured surface of my my enamel works.