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Review: Respect, part of Liverpool Mental Health Festival 2016

Respect, part of Liverpool Mental Health Festival 2016
Unit 51

For the second year running, Unit 51 was host to the exhibition of World Mental Health Day celebrations, this year fittingly entitled Respect. The private view was held on Friday the 7th of October, and officially opened by Liverpool’s home grown, internationally celebrated artists, The Singh Twins.

Liverpool Mental Health Consortium did the city proud with a vast variety of works exhibited to open the two weeks festivities planned around psychological wellbeing.

Alan Murray presents a self-port of himself on the brink looking directly into the gallery space and the visitors as they enter. Alan’s career as a painter has gone from strength to strength over the last few years, his most recent highlight being commissioned to paint a portrait of Jamie Carragher. In this he presents Carragher as a Gladiator and surrounds him with aliens, the work will be displayed at the former LFC defenders New York bar.

In this work, Curtains he presents an image of himself contemplating suicide, holding his head as it is cracking apart. The shower represents the cleansing of the mind, the tattoo drawing attention to underground narcotics culture so prominent in Britain in the 1990s rave scene, and its contributions to the mental health issues in today’s climate. Alan looks to draw attention to male suicide rates through his work and he has clearly achieved this with this unforgettable image of mental turmoil.

In the work of Sue Leach we are presented with a perspective on motherhood. We have an artist who began her experience of motherhood several decades ago and has time to reflect as a woman; to look back on the stress she felt as a first-time mother caring for her newborn child.

Susan was born in Liverpool during the post second world war period. On retirement, she began a BA in Fine Art at Wirral Metropolitan College, in Birkenhead. We are presented with a baby book like form, three solid panels where an infant can help turn the large page-like forms as part of the reading process. The panels are made from porcelain to symbolise fragility, and bound together with ribbons using methods similar to those used for items of baby clothing.

On the panels, there are images of items which relate to childcare, knitting needles, safety pins, nail scissors, zips, but also a hammer. These tools of motherhood present opposing views, in this we have items which could help care for a child, but items which could also harm. Sue looks to highlight the anxiety a new mother can feel and how this is dependent on her support network.

For my own part in the exhibition, I presented Life from the waist down, representing the healing process from an act of sexual violence, or rape. I began working with psychically based concepts several years ago when I submitted BiPolar B for the 2014 World Mental Health celebrations.

This form presents the idea of strength and recovery in terms of the later stages of Rape Trauma Syndrome, when the healing process is under way. The feathers within the structure indicate a woman who is still fragile, but they are also a very natural material and draw attention to nature’s healing process. The pubic hair is represented by foliage showing regrowth around the groin. Green leaves, in particular, depicting hope, renewal and revival. The form shows a woman in recovery and all the strength which surrounds that process.

Respect brought together a chaotic mix of artists and medium, but with one clear goal: to raise awareness around mental health.

We have a stunning miniature from Denise Armstrong showing many different versions of herself; Virginia Chandler‘s mixed emulsion, acrylic and oils to show us how mixed up she felt struggling with a personality disorder; a hallucination was introduced by Ross Clark, while Anna Middleton shows us how vivid dreams can be on medication; Mickey Mouse was brought in by Chris Mulray to tell us about Aspergers; Ruscoe Ceramics reminded us that things could be fragile with their porcelain. Finishing it all off with Naomi Simone‘s Weeping ladies, a haunting image of three heads together bound to impact on your visual memory.

The exhibition runs between Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th of October at Unit 51, Jamaica Street, Baltic Triangle. It will be extended and added to at Constellations until 16th October 2016.