AN aspiring artist who suffers from a rare immune condition has launched his first exhibition displaying artwork based on his medical experiences.
Michael Wight, from Gilmerton, was diagnosed with X-linked agammaglobulinemia (XLA) – a condition that affects just one in 200,000 newborn babies – when he was three years old.
After catching both meningitis and pneumonia as a baby, his mother, Joyce, “knew something wasn’t right” and it wasn’t long before her son was diagnosed with XLA.
But despite the 23-year-old’s rare condition, which involves having to inject himself once a week, Michael has never given up on his dream of becoming an artist.
He said: “Painting for me is a form of therapy, it’s how I express my thoughts and feelings and it helps me to relax.
“I’ve always dreamed of becoming an artist and I’m determined my condition won’t affect my goal.
“I’m excited about the launch of my first solo exhibition.”
X-linked agammaglobulinemia is very rare and occurs almost exclusively in men. Those with the condition have very few B cells – specialised white blood cells that help protect the body against infection.
Michael’s exhibition, which is now on display at the Edinburgh Palette in London Road, is named XLA and is themed around life living with such a condition.
His artwork details how his medical experiences have both hindered and helped his growth as a person.
His abstracts depict a selection of moments in his life, including doctors drawing diagrams explaining things to his parents, methods of transfusion, coping with dependency and personal insight in getting held back.
The artist, who currently works as a section leader at Asda at The Jewel, recalled having to visit the hospital frequently for blood transfusions when he was a youngster – to ensure his body was strong enough to fight off infection.
Before he was old enough to treat himself, Michael would visit the hospital once every three weeks for an injection.
“I would visit the hospital where I would get injections in my chest”, Michael said.
“When I was around 13, the doctors decided I was old enough to treat myself and I became the youngest person in Scotland to be able to do subcut transfusion.
“It’s alright really, it just takes time, which is annoying when I could be out doing other things.”
Michael, who is a former pupil of Holy Rood High School, graduated with a diploma in art at the former Stevenson College before he was offered a coveted place at Gray’s School of Art at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.
Unfortunately, due to medical difficulties, Michael couldn’t accept the spot and a few months later he secured a job in retail.
He said: “Whenever I’m not at work, I’m at home painting.
When my mum was helping me set up for my exhibition, she couldn’t believe the amount of work I do from my tiny room. She asked me how I fit everything in.”
He added: “At my exhibition, people can expect to see large abstract paintings, digital work, photography and some contemporary installation pieces.
“It’s all based on things I’ve experienced. The exhibition documents the past 23 years of my life in rich, striking abstract art.”