When poor mental health creates great art …
Posted on 12 December 2009 | 3:12pm
Since writing All In The Mind, making Cracking Up, and becoming Mind Champion of the Year, I’ve been approached by all manner of mental health organisations and today want to give a plug to one of them.
Breakthrough do some fantastic work promoting the creative work of people with mental health problems. They produce magazines and coffee table books made up entirely of art and photography done by mental health service users.
It is run by husband and wife team Tony and Angie Russell from their home in Barnsley. Tony is bipolar and uses photography as a coping strategy. They have built up a network of artists whose work can be seen and bought on their website. Inevitably, it is of varied quality, but there is some good stuff on there.
I was in the Royal Free Hospital for an ENT appointment yesterday and was struck by how much artwork you see around the place (alongside some terrific public health messaging, notably on the stairwells we were all being encouraged to use in preference to the lifts). It would be great if art done by mental health service users could get favoured stratus in the NHS artwork procurement policy.
It is an interesting area this. A while back I did the official opening of a new medium secure psychiatric hospital in Lancashire, where art therapy was a key part of the ethos, and was showing great results alongside some interesting art.
Mind are currently working with the talented British artist Stuart Semple, who is auctioning 10 of his early works on eBay, with 100% of the sale price being donated to the charity. Go onto his website to see the paintings and the bids they have so far attracted.
When Stuart was 18, he almost died from a food allergy. He was rushed to hospital experiencing anaphylactic shock and his heart stopped. The cause of the reaction was unknown and this traumatic experience, and resulting anxiety, caused Stuart to develop OCD tendencies towards food and a severe food phobia, to the point that he felt himself unable to swallow. To try and resolve his issues he began to channel his energy into painting, using it as an outlet for his emotions. It is these early works that began to gain him critical acclaim. So now, through the auction, he is investing the money he has made back into the system to help others.
Nice story. There are plenty of others in the magazines and coffee table books made by Tony and Angie Russell, and I hope they start to get the support and recognition they deserve.