Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

My [Pounds Sterling]600a-Week Coke Habit Just to Paint; Controversial Artist Stella Vine Speaks about the Project Inspired by Kate Moss That Drove Her to Addiction - and How Only the Love for Her Teenage Son Stopped Her from Attempting Suicide

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

My [Pounds Sterling]600a-Week Coke Habit Just to Paint; Controversial Artist Stella Vine Speaks about the Project Inspired by Kate Moss That Drove Her to Addiction - and How Only the Love for Her Teenage Son Stopped Her from Attempting Suicide

Article excerpt

Byline: EMINE SANER

WE SIT together, Stella Vine and I, in her Bloomsbury flat, both swaddled in blankets as the bright winter sun, like the small electric heater on the paint-spattered floor, decides to give up on us. It seems as if the room is crammed with blondes - Paula Yates smiles down from one large canvas, Sienna Miller from another and a painting of Princess Diana shadowed by a paparazzo lens leans against the kitchen wall.

Vine wraps herself up tight in her checked blanket and shifts positions on her plastic chair. She has made no attempt to tidy up - dirty plates are stacked precariously in the sink in the small kitchen - but I like the honesty of the chaos and squalor. Vine, who is 36, isn't so dishevelled - she's wearing a pretty pink-and-black Marc Jacobs dress, her blonde hair pulled back neatly and she kicks off a pair of round-toed shoes into some dark corner of the room.

It's been a difficult 18 months for Vine but also her most productive.

Less than two weeks ago, she stopped taking cocaine after a four-monthlong addiction (she has also been on and off Prozac for years). She started, she says, because she had taken on too much work. "I thought I'd just get some cocaine and paint all the time. I thought I would stop after that. I had taken it before, but very rarely - I think I had always known how I could get addicted to something. I was always very careful with alcohol but this seemed very rational, it was about increasing the hours in my day.

I thought I could recover but it was something I couldn't control. It took me over. I couldn't paint unless I was taking cocaine, and then it got to the point where I couldn't paint when I was on cocaine.

"Four months ago I would get the odd [pounds sterling]100 bag and very quickly I was spending [pounds sterling]400 a week, and for the last month it was [pounds sterling]600 a week. I had made my life a living hell. It exaggerated all my fears, my low self-esteem. I just felt absolutely worthless. I would walk down Oxford Street bumping into people and apologising 10 times, or I would walk around at night with homeless people because I couldn't sleep. I even contemplated using a syringe because my nose was f***ed.

Taking heroin flashed through my mind, but that was crazy."

One of her paintings of Kate Moss with lettering saying, "Holy water cannot help you now", which is on show at a new exhibition, took Vine 20 hours to paint in October, stopping only to refuel on cocaine. The irony that Moss was, herself, at that time in rehab, isn't lost on Vine.

"It was ridiculous," says Vine. "Kate was in Arizona getting better, and I was completely self-destructing but I couldn't stop because I was painting Kate. I started painting her before all the stuff about the cocaine was in the papers. I was much more interested in the romanticism of Kate and Pete [Doherty, the Babyshambles frontman]. She was someone who wanted to reach the heady heights of passion.

I saw strength and daring and fun behind her eyes."

Sometimes, after taking cocaine all day, Vine would knock herself out with Night Nurse. "But then two capfuls weren't working and then I took a bottle and that still did nothing and I thought, f*** it, I cannot be in this hell so I downed another one. I didn't care if I came around again or not."

Three weeks ago, she staggered outside, fell over on the street and a woman put her in a cab that took her to hospital. She stayed in overnight under observation. "I didn't want to come back here because the habit had been here so I went to a B&B for a couple of nights," she says.

"I had seen a couple of psychiatrists at the hospital and they were incredibly helpful. I never had a desire to talk to anyone about anything before but they were fantastic."

She didn't stop taking cocaine straight away but one day, not long after, she caught a glimpse of her old self. …

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