The Expert View

[Featured image: Bobby Baker, Diary Drawing, courtesy of Andrew Whittuck 2014]

Daily Life Ltd presents…
Until 16 December 2014
Dalston Square and CLR James Library

Society loves an expert. Someone who can answer questions, take responsibility and be called upon in a crisis. Poor mental health affects 25% of the population during their lifetime so clearly specialist knowledge, understanding and ‘expert’ care are needed. But by placing the emphasis and expectation on any one person or profession, are we finding the most effective way of resolving distress?

The Expert View; a light-box installation in Dalston Square and CLR James Library, offers personal reflections on mental health and expertise by people in East London – psychiatrists, psychologists, support workers, doctors, nurses and a wealth of individuals with personal experience of mental distress.

Daily Life Ltd is an arts and mental health charity funded by Arts Council England and led by artist Bobby Baker. Based in Stratford, most of their activities take place in East London as part of The Daily Life Project. They create powerful art that changes the way people think about mental health, and promote the talents and insight of artists, performers, writers and musicians with personal experience of mental health issues – online and on the ground. Click here to visit their website.

Image courtesy of Willie Robb (2013)

Image courtesy of Willie Robb (2013)

Does ‘lived’ experience – experience of living with mental distress – count as expertise too? What are the benefits of collaboration and sharing knowledge? And where does art fit in all of this?

Six Outside In artists: Sara Rivers, John Sheehy, Heather Beveridge, John Jennings, Sophie Adams and Dawn Clarke, have work on display in the lightboxes alongside a selection of other artists. This follows their participation in a series of drawing workshops inspired by Bobby Baker’s Diary Drawings, and their selection for the exhibition.

Participating Outside In artist John Jennings says:

“I had only vaguely heard of Bobby Baker before I was invited by Outside In to take part in a drawing workshop devised by Bobby Baker. This deficit soon rectified at the workshop and I learned first hand from Bobby her experiences of mental illness, treatment and the importance that art played in her recovery. Called the ‘Expert View’, the workshops facilitated artistic responses from the experts on mental health, patients, doctors, and other health professionals.

Artist/educator Jake Spicer was our workshop leader and he deftly demonstrated his drawing and watercolour technique, but my heart fell because watercolour was like a dark art to me. I’d always found it inaccessible.

John Jennings watercolour picture

John Jennings watercolour painting

So the day began with everyone drawing and painting away except me. Lunch, including chocolate cake came and went… and nothing. The last half hour approached and in sheer desperation I discarded pens and pencils, grabbed a watercolour box, a big brush, pot of water and out of nowhere popped six small abstract coloured heads so fast I can’t remember painting them! What a relief! And I’d found a particular way through to using watercolour as a medium in my picture making.

At the end of the workshop, when we shared our work, I was amazed and delighted at the diversity and singularity of my fellow artists’ picture making. Our pictures were then taken to be put forward for the selection process. I have never had a picture selected for an exhibition before, so to find out that four were going to be included in the lightbox installation came as a huge surprise.”

Outside In artist Sara Rivers says:

“When I went to the workshop I didn’t know quite what to expect or fully what the workshop would involve. The workshop was to include people from all walks of life, including people like myself who had experienced mental health problems. Bobby was there to introduce the workshop and discuss in personal terms the importance of drawing in her life and work. We, the participants, were to discover and create a personal statement about how we saw ourselves through drawing. We touched upon who was the expert in the mental health system and were introduced to the materials provided.

At the end of the workshop we shared and looked at each other’s work, commenting and enjoying the results of the day and hearing about the stories that accompanied the images. I found the day absorbing and strangely uplifting, and despite only knowing one other person in the group, felt connections had been made through the art making process. The day was full and encouraging. The process of making the art had been relaxed and friendly despite my initial self-consciousness. I really did not think too much about what had taken placed, but was pleased to hear that some of my work had been selected for the exhibition. 

Image courtesy of Andrew Whittuck (2009)

Image courtesy of Andrew Whittuck (2009)

There in the square in Dalston, the works were in the public domain. The light boxes were lit up against the darkness, amidst the shoppers and commuters, the young and the old. They were bright and luminous, charting the development of the project and more importantly raising questions about art and mental health, widening the debate surrounding who the expert really is. I felt encouraged and pleased to have been part of this piece of challenging yet sensitively made art work.”

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  1. Ophelia's Mirror

    I too, Sophie Adams, also an Outside In artist; at least, I have my work represented on the Outside In website and have, also, completed the Step-Up Training (part of Outside In’s educational activity) took part and am exhibiting in the Expert View alongside other Outside In artists. Just a bit miffed that I wasn’t mentioned as one of the participating Outside In artists. But then how would you know, although I did make it clear in the intros at the actual workshop that I am part of Mind in Camden’s team and- I think- I did say I have affiliation with Outside In, as one of your represented artists and a Step Up trained facilitator. A shame I missed out on being named as also one of the Outside In artists as any coverage or mention would have been great! Best, Sophie Adams. Slade School of Fine Art BA hons in Fine Art, painting, 2007 graduate, as well as Outside In artist. ( I would be very grateful if you could add my name as one of the participating Outside In artists in the Expert View Exhibition.) Thanks in advance, Sophie

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