Thursday, 18 July 2013

Cats, Dots & Angels

'Identity' Project @ Limited Editions Brighton

On February 13th 2013, a chilly winter evening, the doors opened to the heart-warming exhibition of very special artworks at the Wagner Hall in Central Brighton.
A group of eight ‘Limited Editions’ artists proudly presented their work to family and friends following a joyful, yet sometimes challenging, journey into self-discovery as part of the ‘Identity: Who am I?’ Project.
‘Limited Editions’ was a Care Co-ops Project which provided free service and opportunities to Brighton & Hove residents with mental health support needs.
All kinds of creative activities were the main focus encouraging members to learn new skills whilst gaining self-esteem to support well being and recovery.
I was very excited and happy to find out that a group of service users selected my proposed two - month art project with the title ‘Identity: Who am I?’ following a presentation in autumn last year.
I encouraged the participants of my course to explore their inner and outer selves through a variety of artistic media, such as tonal pencil drawing, mark-making, collage and water colour painting. They investigated the elements that form their identity (physical appearance, personality, possessions, life-style and culture, etc.) in a visually expressive way.
Although all members started this project journey from different points in their lives, with or without artistic experiences, everybody ended up (re-)discovering and re-claiming hidden parts of themselves whilst overcoming initial challenges, internal and external ones.
The results were visible in the final exhibition of very personal and intimate pieces of art works.
‘As a group, Silke (the tutor) encouraged us to express our creativity by using the image of an eye that mirrors in it things that identify us. So in it I have included the things I love – my daughter … and all the pets and animals who were important to me.’ Participant, anonymous.
For the artists the process of art-making, sharing and exhibiting had become an important stepping stone on their way to mental, emotional and physical well-being: Participants, who'd like to stay anonymous, stated:
The art display depicted my life through my eyes, (the windows of my soul) Silke, the artist who taught me was really inspiring and encouraged me to bring out the creative side of me.’

‘During this art project experience, I have gained so much more confidence with expressing my feelings…using art. I have discovered new techniques… and will continue to improve on my skills gained that Silke instilled in me.’

‘My work is to do with identity and the things that I find interesting. I like making patterns with repeated dots and symbols. This project taught me new skills I never thought I had before. Learning something new made me feel a bit daunted at first but when I got used to it I felt more confident. … I found it relaxing and it helped me unwind.’
One of the many highlights of this project was the fact that one participant only created the one collage of his ‘Guardian Angel’. The ‘birth’ of this celestial being into the visible, tangible world was emotional, painful and traumatic for him (as births are!). But it resulted not only in an accomplished work of art but a beautifully written piece which featured in the exhibition. It summed up in a magical way the positivity and imagination I have seen in everybody who took part in this project.

‘What would I do in a world free of fear, and free of guilt?

I would dance.
And run.
And laugh.
And cry, a little.’
(Member who wants to stay anonymous)

 Exhibition @Wagner Hall

The Eyes as 'Windows of the Soul' and 'Identity':

Exploring Mixed Media:

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