Challenging popular culture’s negative perception of mental health, artist George Harding’s exhibition at the Bethlem Gallery – on the grounds of the world’s oldest psychiatric hospital – seeks to shows that ‘There is Good in Us’.
1 in 4 people in the UK will have a mental health problem at some stage in life yet recent research by Mind, the mental health charity, shows that attitudes to mental illness are getting worse. And for many the stigma is harder to deal with than the illness itself.
Speaking about his work George said: “these paintings are of self portraits, and portraits of artists, friends, family and mental health professionals who have guided and helped me through my mental health problems. Together they have given me perspective on a journey through to the other side where there is hope in being able to cope with my illness. The work encourages people to look at “us” in a way that is celebratory, unconventional and can teach us something about different ways of being.”
George is a fine artist based in Bristol. He’s a graduate of University of the Arts London, Chelsea and his work has attracted the attention of galleries and collectors in both London and Bristol. His practice explores how the real is viewed and interpreted, incorporating elements of painting through different approaches, one of which is portraiture. His portraits celebrate and explore the individual’s character and essence.
Through the act of painting George aims to illustrate the personal connection between the artist and sitter. His self-portraits begin with photographs in the mist of a shower mirror surface that fragments, distorts and dissolves the figure. Using painting techniques of blurring and pointillism his work abstracts the real into colour and light showing a disassociation from reality.
He is inspired by many Impressionist painters, their use of colour and light, as well as the life stories of many of these artists. Other inspirations include, Edvard Munch and Gerhard Richter. George said: “For me the act of painting and creating is a necessity. It speaks to me of emotion and internal feeling that become understood through its making. It also surprises me because it shows me things I could not see before. I see in new ways through the experience of painting”.
Dr Norbert Andersch, George’s former psychiatrist, will be featuring in the exhibition along side other mental health professionals. He said: “My impression is that in his paintings, and his very own style, George has found a channel to express himself and to communicate in a unique way which I am sure helps him and is certainly an inspiration to others.”
Opening Event: Wednesday 7 March, from 3pm to 6pm.
Exhibition continues: Thursday 8 to Friday 30 March.
Opening times: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, from 11am to 6pm. Gallery and Museum also open Saturday 10 March, from 11am to 6pm.
Address: The Bethlem Gallery, Bethlem Royal Hospital, Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham, Kent BR3 3BX
Travel: Nearest British Rail: Eden Park / East Croydon
Contact: Beth Elliott, Gallery Coordinator, 020 3228 4835
Notes to editors:
1. Mind is a partner in Time to Change, England’s most ambitious campaign to end the discrimination faced by people who experience mental health problems, as well as improve the nation’s wellbeing. For more information visit: http://www.mind.org.uk/timetochange
2. The Bethlem Gallery provides a showcase for the inspirational talents of mental health service user artists through professional exhibitions, residencies and events. We promote access and participation within arts and health settings and campaign for greater awareness of mental health problems whilst challenging negative perceptions of mental health.
3. Bethlem Royal Hospital is the oldest psychiatric hospital in the world and is a provider of mental health and substance misuse services for people locally and specialist services for people from across the U.K.
4. One in six people – about 10 million people in the UK – are affected by a mental health problem at any one time (The Office for National Statistics).
5. Interviews with the curators can be arranged.
6. High resolution jpegs of artwork are available on request.
7. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.