The above quote by artist Mark Titchner is an artwork created for the Hands Off Our Revolution movement, and will also be a part of the forthcoming exhibition in the Bethlem Gallery Thinking Society: Art and Social Psychiatry. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the gallery, we are a contemporary gallery space based in the grounds of the Bethlem Royal Hospital ' the oldest psychiatric hospital in the world still functioning today.
We are often asked by our visitors about the relationship between art and health, and frequently come up against common assumptions such as: there is a fine line between genius and madness; all art is a form of therapy, art is a way of diagnosing people's problems.
Are we in danger of co-opting the role that the arts can play in our lives, perhaps oversimplifying it into a health outcome or, worse still, a money-saving exercise? Aren't we missing the point?
Mark's work makes me consider not how art can impact on health, but that art might share a common challenge with the world of health; to address the imbalances, problems and ills that exist within our collective and individual experiences.
For me, both the arts and the sciences are practices that ignite the imagination, creativity and curiosity. They are bold, experimental, reflective and boundless. They help us question, problem solve, build resilience, learn and survive. They stretch back to the earliest records of civilization and extend infinitely in front of us. They are a way of relating to and making sense of ourselves, each other, and the world around us.
We cannot replace medical interventions with paint and canvas or vice versa, but if we think holistically we have hope. Lee, a Bethlem artist once described his 'triangle of wellbeing' as his art, medication and psychological therapies, take one of them away and he did not feel well. Each person will have a different combination of needs and methods of healing, likely to change at different times of their lives, but when these resources can combine that's when we can make lasting change for people.
For us at the gallery, art is not an adjunct or a convenient vehicle it is a way of being, thinking, modeling and doing.
'Art is for a chance to live.'
Beth Elliot is Chair of the LAHF board, and Director of Bethlem Gallery, a contemporary gallery based on the grounds of the Bethlem Royal Hospital. The gallery delivers a programme of events that seeks to support artistic practice, campaign for access to the arts in healthcare environments and engage audiences in learning and debate on the subject of mental health.
Since graduating from University of the Arts London, Camberwell in 2002 she has focused on facilitating arts in mental health through workshops, residencies and exhibitions, and has also played an active role in supporting arts charities within the sector and beyond.