Seven artists’ explorations of their experiences of mental illness and the struggle for survival in an increasingly complex and mentally challenging world.
I was lucky enough to be invited as an artist alongside the temps, to take part in the Frames of Mind exhibition at the Towner Gallery,
curated by The Craftimation Factory
as part of their year-long project in association with Recovery Partners. The
project worked with adults with mental health issues creating stop-motion animations
using hand-made sets and adorable knitted puppets as a means to exploring their
experiences of mental illness.
© Amanda Jobson
Janey Moffat Laloë, who founded and runs the charity, invited seven artists including herself, with lived experience of mental illness, to create a life-sized animation set exploring their personal experiences of depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. As artists, we collaborated for two months in a warehouse space owned by Hastings Furniture Service in Bexhill, and came up with the idea of making a 1970s Day of the Dead-inspired set. We quickly found parallels in our ideas and themes of guilt, hope and redemption emerged in our work.
Janey’s piece, Feeling Wired, a life-sized puppet made of giant knitting, fairy lights and floral embellishments, depicts her experience of mania as part of her bipolar disorder. Initially conceived of as a playful puppet, the end result became a hauntingly disturbing figure depicting of the loss of control experienced by those in a state of mania or hypomania, characterised by racing thoughts, risky behaviour, excess energy and a decreased need for sleep.
© Xaverine Bates
My piece, Miss Mascha Havisham Cavendish, is a tribute to the multitude of women over the centuries, who have been vilified, incarcerated and executed due to mental illness and the myths surrounding it. Part auto-biographical, part historical, she represents the pain and hope I experience on a daily basis living with and learning to manage bipolar disorder. The black lace coat belonged to my great grandmother Mimi, and the bay leaves which make up the skirt represent bay’s many magical properties.
Despire [1. to despise (Old French, Etymology: Latin dēspiciō) 2. to be aspiring and desiring 3. to desire and despise (urban slang)], my other piece, is a testament to the past eleven months of my life, from the nervous breakdown I experienced at the end of last year and my extensive contact with mental health services. The piece contains shredded blog-posts, written as a journalistic record of my journey, which were slashed and reddened to symbolise incidences of self-harm and suicidal ideations, sprinkled with drops of my own blood from one of these times. The white thread symbolises hope for recovery and acts as a shroud around my pain, while the gilt frame symbolises both guilt for the hurt I have caused and the glory of one day conquering and learning to manage the condition.
© Erin Marie Veness
Stuart Griffiths’ photographs, taken during his time serving as a young British paratrooper in
during the Troubles, show an image of a very ordinary reality in extraordinary
circumstances. The young soldiers, some as young as 18 years old, were
catapulted from normality into a hellish scenario with which many could not
cope. Northern Ireland Griffiths controversially depicted their
lives off-duty, during which they indulged in illegal drugs and alcohol, as a
natural means of dealing with mental trauma due to the events they witnessed in
and around the streets of west
in the 1980s. The photographs, drawings and letters written by Belfast Griffiths
during this time, which are chronicled in his book Pigs’ Disco, were aired during his recent show at . He also included
a playful drawing entitled The Black Dog
of Depression, referencing Winston Churchill’s tender title for his chronic
depression, now a commonly used term by those that suffer the condition. Sussex Coast
© Erin Marie Veness
Amanda Jobson explored the now demolished Hellingly psychiatric hospital, built in 1898, which fell into disrepair after closure in 1994. Her photographs depict a haunting space populated by peeling wallpaper and abandoned hospital beds, hinting at the pain and despair of the patients who inhabited the space. Upon discovering that my great-aunt was admitted to Hellingly following a breakdown towards the end of her life, these photographs took on a particularly personal significance for me. Her smaller monochromatic photographs, Exeter Outer, including a ghostly winged figure, sit within silver frames and delicately question identity, reality and presence and/or absence of mind.
© Amanda Jobson
Susan Jean Lelliott wanted to explore her identity as a child, pathologised for her difference by her family, from a young age she was labelled as ‘mental’. The cage they made me is a poignantly delicate sculpture of a bird reflecting upon itself in a mirror within a vintage birdcage with a strewn joker playing card and sunflower seeds. By contrast, the paired piece, The cage I made myself, is an exuberant sculpture representing the strengths and limits of her adult self. It is made of woven hydrangea flowers, vibrant yarns and a large wooden bird sits at the centre with a tiny bird headpiece bird fashioned out of wire and the artist’s hair.
© Stuart Griffiths
Rebecca Snotflower’s brains adorn one of the walls of the set. The first, an outline of a brain painted in garish neon pink, is contrasted with a meticulous monochrome drawing in her characteristically anarchic style of illustration which, on closer inspection, contains references to surveillance, Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining, religion, censorship and sexual imagery.
Erin Marie Veness’ monoprints, reminiscent of the raw, immediate style of Tracey Emin, depict lonely figures with slogans such as ‘Keeping ghosts alive’ and ‘We used to be friends’, which are largely auto-biographical, exploring her own personal experience with mental illness and contact with mental health services.
We decided as a group to graffiti the back of the set using slogans typically used by the general public in describing those with mental health issues. Entitled The Lights are On [but nobody’s home], we scrawled mental, schizo, two sandwiches short of a picnic and other such derogatory terms frequently used in common parlance about those suffering from schizophrenia, psychosis, depression and mania in vibrant dayglow lettering. The panels reference such controversial depictions of mental illness as a Hallowe’en outfit, stocked by a large chain of supermarkets last year, of a ‘mental patient’ in a straitjacket, which was swiftly removed after a campaign led by mental health charities.
© Erin Marie Veness
As a group, collectively known as the temps, who formed earlier on this year and collaborated on a street art project on the theme of mental health and mental illness around the streets of St Leonards as part of Coastal Currents, we quickly bonded and supported each other in our treatment of our own personal experiences and enabled each other to portray our issues in a safe and secure environment. The temps intend to continue their work as a group and hope to exhibit in
St Leonards, London and in the New Year. New York
© Mike Laloë
An edited version of this article can soon be found on Hastings Independent
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