Mindful of creativity
Last night saw the late view of Mindful at the cavernous Old Vic Tunnels. Launched with a gala dinner and auction hosted by Mind president Stephen Fry on Wednesday evening; Mindful is an exhibition and series of events to raise money for the creative therapies fund within Mind, the leading mental health charity in England and Wales. Artist, Samantha Sweeting spent her evening exploring the tunnels of art for us.
Featuring a group of world-renowned contemporary artists, the exhibition has been organised and curated by artist and Mind Ambassador Stuart Semple, in collaboration with the creative directors at the Old Vic, to highlight the links between creativity and mental illness.
The creative therapies fund, set up by Semple this year, will help further the availability of art therapies at Mind, allowing people suffering from mental health problems to have access to creative modes of expression. Art therapies provide a powerful means of dealing with trauma in a safe psycho-therapeutic environment, and are particularly useful for people who have trouble communicating painful experiences in words. Creativity is harnessed as a means for catharsis, and for people to gain a greater understanding and acceptance of their emotional history.
At the Mindful exhibition, in a nice analogy to the therapeutic process, the viewers are asked to navigate their way through the labyrinth of dark tunnels, to encounter the multiple artefacts and experiences on display. These include Annie Kevan’s portrait of Princess Diana and other public figures reputed to have suffered mental illness, Liliane Lijn’s sensor activated self-portrait sound installation, ‘Sweet Dreams I, II, III’, as well as another striking piece, ‘The Fate of the Magpie’, by one of my favourite contemporary artists Tessa Farmer, in which Farmer’s trademark fairy creatures take control of a swarm of insects to occupy the corpse of a rotting magpie.
There is also the opportunity to witness the extraordinary video documentation by Sarah Lucas of the late Sebastian Horsley’s crucifixion in the Philippines in 2000. In a private ceremony as part of the Easter tradition, Horsley had himself nailed to a cross. It is uncomfortably painful viewing for the cinema audience, watching the nails being hammered through his palms, before Horsley’s body is hoisted into the air on the cross only to come crashing down some minutes after as the nails give way.
The Mindful exhibition continues until Tuesday, alongside a series of events and film screenings, creating a platform from which to throw light upon and even normalise the experience of mental distress as suffered by 1 in 4 people in England and Wales. It marks the beginning of a project of great social and cultural importance and, from my position as an artist with a longstanding interest in psychotherapy, I am thrilled to see it taking place.
The exhibition 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.
Mindful is on now at the Old Vic Tunnels until 27 September. For more information and tickets visit their website here.
All images are courtesy of Samantha Sweeting.