Wales Millennium Centre and the HeARTh Gallery at Llandough are two of the host venues of the annual Mental Health Arts Festival in Cardiff this year, and Wales Arts Review has been on hand for a guided tour of some of the visual arts that the festival has on offer, from painting to video installations and digital photography. Here a selection of the artists give a little insight into their work.
The theme of this year’s festival is ‘Walls:Muriau’. Out of the creative minds of those with and without lived experience of mental ill health, the festival will explore the walls put up and the barriers, both physical and attitudinal, that exist for those affected by mental illness.
In an arts and mental health context, walls can take on many meanings. It could be the walls of the mind, the walls of a gallery, theatre or cinema screen, a hospital, the box you feel you might fit in with a diagnosis, or the walls you need to overcome due to stigma….the walls you’ve broken through in recovery….and many more.
The festival is organised by Disability Arts Cymru, Ynys Mon a Gwynedd Mind, and Making Minds, and runs from Nov 21st-24th. More details of what’s on and how to get tickets can be found here.
Tim Iliffe – In My Mind There Are Many Rooms
‘I have been an artist for 45 years and in June this year I was granted Arts Council funding for research and development into the creation of a major installation: Air Wind and Fire.
That work will portray my life with mental illness over the last 25 years, showing my mental state, revealing the highs and lows, the side effects of prescription drugs and my slow recovery since moving to Wales 18 years ago. During this R&D phase from August to November 2015, I kept a mind diary – In My Mind There Are Many Rooms – visually displaying my mind state on each day for 100 days.
The images had to conform to the following rules:
They would be 400mm by 900mm maximum
They would take no longer than an hour to create
They would be on a continuous roll of paper
No image would be altered or deleted from the final work and would, like a film, show small glimpses of my artistic life over the 100 days.’
Glyndwr Brimacombe – Acrylic on Canvas paintings
‘I paint fluid acrylic abstracts (among other things). I use UV paint in my work to add extra dimension to the paintings in an attempt to express what I can’t with words, this is the only way I have found that works for me. Everyone sees something different in my paintings, there is always something new to find, especially under UV light. They are meant to be explored and inspected up close, and while you’re doing that your mind is distracted and gets a rest for a while, a chance to hit the “reset” button. Creating these and exploring them is my therapy, and quite personal, as what you see is “me”.’
Paul Whittaker – Institutional Blue (film installation)
‘I am a Bi Polar, Cardiff based Artist and Filmmaker who works across the Arts and Public Sector to create work with the aim of increasing understanding in the wider community of social issues. I received my diagnosis as a film student at Newport Film School and on graduating dedicated ten years of my life to the creation of a life that allows me to live without medication.
With this installation I explore the voyeur in all of us and how, if we only glimpse a snapshot of someone’s life, we can only imagine the story of their world. The piece is painted “institutional blue” as it is common to the myriad of services I have accessed throughout my career as an mental health outpatient.’
Paddy Faulkner – Photography
‘I heard someone say once, “If a picture paints a thousand words, I wonder what a picture of a thousand words would paint?”’
Paddy is also performing in a play, Jailhouse Pressure – Prisons Within on Nov 21st at WMC.
Terence-Jaiden Wray – Of Gods and Monsters
‘My pieces are brand new, a display of A2 pieces gilded in 23ct “Russian” gold: A series named Of Gods and Monsters. They’re representative of mental health in general, but I wished to pursue the unreal feeling mental health can bestow on the afflicted through these pale figures—the backs of their heads sprouting a larger, vascular entity constantly trailing behind and around them, but sharing the same mind.’
‘I’m married with four children and a dog. I live on Anglesey where I was born and grew up. I draw using a graphics tablet and pen and on paper. I also write poetry and have done since I was a teenager. I have a diagnosis of schizophrenia and epilepsy and my arts reflect my feelings about these and provide an outlet for my emotional response to them; they provide a safe place for me to express myself.’
Suzie Larke – Digital Photography
‘One of the problems with mental illness is that the symptoms are often not outwardly apparent. This project is an attempt to visualise the reality of depression in a way that is accessible to the viewer and through this provide a source of inspiration to acknowledge the turbulence that so often affects us all. My aim for this project is to illustrate depression through conceptual photography.
I hope to raise awareness and challenge commonly held stereotypical views of mental illness by creating photographs that, whilst maintaining a level of realism, distort reality in a way that opens up the experience of depression; creating a broader perspective that is open to subjective interpretation and allows people to locate their own experiences with mental illness within the images
On a personal level, I use photography therapeutically to help deal with a lot of the emotions that I had trouble understanding at the time I was ill. Ultimately, by making the personal public, I am seeking to make a contribution to a much-needed conversation about mental illness.’
Aidan Moesby – Sagacity: Periodic Table of Emotions (digital interactive art installation)
‘As a socially engaged Text Based Artist and Writer I am interested in the schisms and conflicts that exist between the personal and cultural agendas. I am fascinated by the way in which we both create and try to make sense of the worlds which we live in. I am interested in the experience of attempting to mediate diverse worlds, attempting to maintain an arts practice and navigate through the increasing complexities of the everyday.’
For more information on shows, performances, workshops and exhibitions this week at the Wales Millennium Centre as part of the festival visit here.