Mental health art: The Mindful Exhibition

MINDFUL is an exhibition and arts festival at the Old Vic Tunnels which launched with a gala dinner and auction at Imperial War Museum. The project, initiated & curated by British artist and Mind Ambassador Stuart Semple in collaboration with creative directors of Old Vic to raise money for the new creative therapies fund within Mind, the leading mental health charity in England and Wales.

Mind creative therapies fund: The Mind creative therapies fund was initiated in 2011 by artist Stuart Semple to fund projects enabling those experiencing mental ill health to explore creative forms of expression. This group show of world-class contemporary art will chart the link between mental health and creativity whilst pin-pointing it’s cathartic potential for both viewer and artist alike. Sales will kick-start a fund set to enable those in mental distress throughout England and Wales to participate in arts therapy sessions. The exhibition itself was be open to the public and encouraged people to question their own views on and associations with mental illness while helping to break down the stigma and discrimination so often faced by sufferers. Stuart, who has an ongoing anxiety disorder himself, understands first-hand the transformative potential of the arts. “The whole point of instigating this fund is to enable others access to the therapeutic potential of creative expression, people who may not have the chance, encouragement, or resources to do so otherwise”.

I learnt the hard way

Includes works by: Jake & Dinos Chapman, Mona Hatoum, Tracey Emin, Mat Collishaw, Sebastian Horsley, Liliane Lijn, Sarah Lucas, George Lilanga, Barney Bubbles, Whitney McVeigh, Tom Wilkinson, Kate Moross, Tessa Farmer, Ellie Rees, Seana Gavin and Stuart Semple.

I had high expectations for this exhibition as it included some of my favourite modern artists such as Tracey Emin and Jake and Dinos Chapman as well as being in the Old Vic Tunnels which I love as the atmosphere is great down there as you can hear the trains passing overhead which gives the place an other-worldly feel.

The first piece I came across was by Jake and Dinos Chapman and was called I learnt the hard way. It really was a bizarre piece that seemed to evoke an emotion of psychological turmoil as the strange collection of brains in the piece appeared to be being battered by some kind of industrial hammer with nails attached to it.

I then walked up to a light installation by Tom Wilkinson and was standing there when I heard an announcement: “are you all waiting for the resonance project? If you are then please follow me” so I followed the crowd that had gathered into a dark room under the arches. The man who made the announcement described what was about to happen. This was part of The Resonance Project where the natural resonating frequency of different parts of the room was exploited so that when a specially designed choral piece was performed the sound was amplified throughout the room naturally producing a quite eerie effect, especially as it was in the pitch black of the Old Vick Tunnels.

After this I went around the exhibition and found some truly brilliant art, most of which was for sale in aid of Mind Creative Therapies Fund. The tunnels proved to be a fantastic setting and there were some truly brilliant pieces which, if I actually had any money I would totally invest in.

Crucifixion No. 5

My favourite piece in the exhibition was Crucifixion no. 5 by Sebastian Horsley which I found truly amazing as I’m always quite the atheist but the geometric shapes and clever colouring really drew me in. I also enjoyed Tessa Farmer’s The fate of the magpie which had a dead stuffed magpie surrounded by insects, some hanging from the ceiling in this tiny room. I found it very unnerving.

Overall I think the exhibition delivered what it promised. An unnerving atmosphere fitting for an area of contemplation of mental health and an excellent collection to raise money to fund creative therapies. I have done art therapy for the past 18 months and it has been the best possible type of therapy for me so I am totally behind the cause.