Monthly Archives: April 2013

Moses Wonders - Michael Lee, Art Psychotherapist

Moses Wonders – Michael Lee, Art Psychotherapist

‘Research in the field confirms that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts, develop inter-personal skills, manage behaviour, reduce stress and increase self-esteem.’

Cate Smail – Art Psychotherapist & Director ArtTherapy4All

All of us could do with a little more art in our lives. In actual fact, at some point we have more than likely all taken part in and drawn some benefit from art therapy. Misconceptions about the practice abound, but its simplest definition is really just personal expression through the production of art. Anyone who has ever stood back, looked at a piece of art they have produced and seen in it recognisable symbols (yes, even phallic ones in year 10) or ended up laughing hysterically as a result of an artistic experience, has engaged with the basic principles of art therapy; self-expression and self analysis. Of course, art therapy in practice is far more complex than this and requires the comprehensive skill and experience of trained practitioners. The application of psychoanalytic and therapeutic art sessions is akin to that of a doctor, or teacher and is essentially a combination of both; involving delicate and painstakingly cultivated patient and tutor relationships. A classic recurring myth I have come across is that art therapy is used primarily for prisoners or victims of abuse. Although these are often the most common uses to be portrayed as examples of art therapy, this generalisation excludes the massive proportion of patients who take part in the process for a whole variety of other reasons.

Many people use art as therapy without attending any kind of session and often without even realising they are doing so, myself included. I recently came across an old sketchbook containing drawings from a particularly difficult period in my life. Suggestive symbols of my mental state immediately jumped out at me. At the time they were produced, most likely nonchalantly scribbled whilst waiting for a train, I certainly don’t remember seeing anything insightful in them at all. But years later, now removed from the emotional state I was then caught up in, the subconscious expression of these feelings in artistic form are crystal clear to even the untrained eye. Those who choose or need to use structured sessions require the guidance and support of a therapist or the insight of a psychoanalyst to help them to identify or make sense of the problems they may be having. Subconscious symbolism is not always as easy to spot as mine was, classic mechanisms such as size (eg. tiny child/huge adult) or colour (eg. heavy black scribbles) are just the tip of a visual iceberg, with each person interpreting the world around them differently. Thus the same symbol in one work could have an entirely alternate association in another. There is no definitive language of symbols. The skill of an art therapist lies firstly in their encouragement to ensure the student engages with the process; secondly in their gentle suggestion of certain techniques/subjects they think might be appropriate for each individual client; and thirdly in their ability to both analyse pieces themselves and to guide the artist to interpret the symbolism behind their own works.

‘It is used with the young and the old, the well and the unwell’

Melanie Stevenson – Art Therapist & Director at ArtTherapy4all

At the Art + Healing exhibition preview last Thursday, showing at Street Gallery in University College London Hospital, I was pleased to see the eclectic mix of patients represented in the huge variety of stories behind the works. I have always believed passionately that art production can benefit every ailment; mental or physical, extreme or seemingly trivial, as well as being useful and enjoyable for those with no obvious problems at all. The Change was created by a patient who was having sessions to help her to deal with going through the menopause; another through a painful divorce, as in Absence and Detachment 1: Where He Lay. Some had been through particularly traumatic experiences; abuse/torture/loss of a loved one, other contributors were art therapists trying to explore their emotional artistic expression, or former patients inspired by their experience to take up art therapy training themselves. The work speaks for itself. Benefiting from the directness of expressive practice it is both fascinating and intensely personal. Not necessarily a stream of consciousness as you may expect, the sudden, passionate expulsion of repressed feeling (although of course some are), but often intricately constructed or crafted, hours of dedication and difficult work coming together to create a resulting piece of art which have, in some cases, literally saved lives.

‘Without Combat Stress and Art Therapy I do not think that I would still be alive today’

Richard Kidgell, Artist, Art therapy client (Combat Stress Veteran)

Art + Healing is on until 5th June at Street Gallery at University College London Hospital opposite Warren Street tube station. The exhibition is supported by a number of organisations including ArtTherapy4All, The Art Therapy Agency, London Art Therapy Centre and University College London Hospital and Arts Centre.

See the website for more details


Notebooks – Saveria Cristofari, School Counsellor


A Piece of Me Still Remains – Amanda Trought, Artist


The Weathered Tree – Hilary Forbes, Art Therapist


The Change – Anonymous, Art Therapy Client (private practice)


Absence & Detachment 1: Where He Lay – Anonymous, Artist, Art Therapy Client


Goldfish Bowl Girl – Anon, Art Therapy Client at The Open Art Studio (Freedom from Torture)


My Love – Angela Morris, Art Therapy Client


‘Synapses’ A response to diminishing interiors – Melanie Stevenson, Art Therapist (Dementia) and Artist


A Girl in a Bad Place – Harlie Tree, Artist and Art Therapy Client


Lost But Never Forgotten – Melanie Stevenson, Glass Artist and Art Therapist


Untitled – James Walters, Artist


Cars, Lorries and Buses – Leonard, Patient, UCH


It’s OK to be me – Peter Kimble, Art Therapy Client


Mess – Julie Dixon, Art Therapist


Clean New Blood – Kayleigh Orr, Art Therapist (in Palliative Care)


‘Missing’ – Rob Cracknell, Artist


13 – Anonymous, Art Therapy Client


Care and Neglect – Helen Omand, Artist and Art Psychotherapist


Hole In My Soul – Anonymous, Art Therapy Client


Absence & Detachment 2: What about the children? – Anonymous, Artist, Art Therapy Client


On Easter Sunday, despite it being the day after a mid-night appearance of a nasty stomach bug which left me pale-faced and swaying, I adopted the stoicism of my mother and accompanied the visiting family to Rainham Marshes and the RSPB Nature Reserve situated there. Having seen the outstanding visitors centre a thousand times in photos (it being perhaps the most well-known of my employer’s projects) but in over 5 years of employment never in person, I was rather embarrassed to discover it is less than 5 minutes from my house. Oh well, better late than never. Still wobbly and feeling the distinct possibility of an oncoming bambi-style faint, I gingerly wandered out from the main visitor centre, it’s distinctive Bridget Riley-inspired facade shining in the glare from beneath the clouds, and headed towards the fairly recently completed Purfleet Hide.

The hide is, as you’d expect, fairly small (although pretty big as bird hides go) and full of birdwatchers, as well as visitors to the current Art in the Purfleet Hide exhibition which runs until 21st April. My enthusiastic nephew jumped straight on the binoculars and began spotting, whilst my dad frustratedly failed to catch a decent picture. When asked intriguingly by a bystanding twitcher what he was trying to photograph, he unintentionally deadpanned ‘a bird’. Within the landscape the hide is deliciously camouflaged, the surrounding reeds providing a kind of parallell-hued softness to the subsequent photographs.

The weather was on my side. Originally disappointed at the lack of blue sky and sunshine, I soon realised that I was very happy with what I had: moody clouds, glare reflecting on the water and as such, some beautiful contrast.

The site is most definitely worth a visit, even as a non-birdwatcher. Take a walk around the whole reserve, relax in the award-winningly sustainable visitor centre, and check out the other hides I didn’t manage to wobble my way to, as well as the one I did. Find out more at the website and some further info about the architecture here and here.


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jps – Biggie Smalls

I grew up in Dartford, in Kent, or Dirtford, as it is often called by locals or regular visitors. I grew up thinking the town had nothing to offer; no prospects, no ambition, no culture. Over the years I’ve realised this isn’t altogether the fault of the town, or even the people in it (apart from their voting habits). The primary fault lies with the local conservative council, voted in year after year despite their very public and obvious decimation of the town itself. Can any meaningful culture survive in a town which sells off its own constituents’ homes, pubs, independent shops and even listed buildings, to Tesco, for the erection of an industrial estate-sized monstrosity slap bang in the centre of the town? Until last Thursday my answer to this question would have been a resounding no. But I stand corrected. Corrected by the astoundingly diverse and talented works of local street artists being exhibited until this Saturday at the What If Gallery in Dartford as part of the Energized Art show.

DSC_0062The exhibition brings together both local and further afield artists, many of whom were at the private view on Thursday, overheard enthusiastically explaining their inspirations to potential buyers. It was, to me, a beautiful sight. There has been a serious dearth of anything even vaguely embodying a shred of artistic sensibility in the local area (publicly, anyway) and these works gave a glimpse of the possibilities for publicising local arts and culture. It is yet another example of how creativity will defiantly flourish despite an utter lack of support, funding or publicity. It continues to spring into being, channeled by talented creatives no matter what the often dire circumstances. In actual fact, it’s a somewhat beautiful irony that despite local councils’ attempts to stem the tide of up and coming street artists (I’ve noticed fabulous pieces suddenly painted over with council grey), they succeed only in fuelling the fire which ignites much of these works and unwittingly become their subject matter. Traditionally, street art has usually contained either implicit or explicit political messages, generally treated with clever dark humour and satire. In more modern times however, and partly as a result of the Banksy revolution (whether you approve or not, he made street art collectible) the genre is less inclined to stick to its previously defined boundaries. The competition is growing rapidly, as are standards, and audiences are no longer just trendy bohemians but bankers, politicians, gallery owners.  New styles are emerging and a clear widening of the boundaries which were once labelled simply ‘graffiti’.


Trust icon – Piracy is a Crime

I’m familiar with one of the artists, Savant, whose work combines carefully designed artistic visuals with an underlying message and either uses or incorporating that revered traditional graffiti medium, the spray can. His works seem to be a comment not only on individual issues, but by their whole manner perhaps reflect his own stance on the genre. Deliberately not abandoning the roots of tradition, but  branching away from the formula and incorporating alternative artistic elements. Other contributors have begun to innovate in whole new ways, which would previously never have been accepted as part of that genre; Eska, a talented young pencil artist, creates detailed landscapes reminiscent of Escher (coincidental name?), his small understated pieces hanging quietly in the corner like a nervous child, but beautiful, and delicately contrasting the other works. More traditional artists were showing too, with a veritable wealth of stunning paintings and works lining the walls of the gallery. But it was Jps who produced two of my personal standout pieces from the show: Biggie Smalls and A Line of Charlie. Both are funny, simple, clever and innovative. They shine a new light on the street art spectrum, exploring and commenting on new media but in classic street art style using popular culture and humour to create an instant connection with the viewer. It did strike me as interesting that only a handful of the artists produced a piece which was not on a canvas in a rectangular frame. The move for the street artist from outside object to indoor canvas is very new, but it shows the still gaping divide between the freedom of street art and the restrictions of gallery art. In a way, they’re still either one, or they’re the other. What will be fascinating is to see how this continues to develop. The status and definitions of street art and graffiti have shifted over the past 15 years and are expanding into a whole new format. Where that will lead, I don’t know, but must say I’m looking forward to finding out.

jps - A Line of Charlie

jps – A Line of Charlie

Now that I’m aware of the wealth of street artists out there, I hope to see their works appearing more regularly nearby and have already submitted my request for a collaborative piece to bring some life and beauty back to the emptiness which currently swamps the town. Whether in the gallery or out on the street, the imagination, creativity and ability is there in abundance. More, please!

The Energized Art exhibition is on at the What If Gallery in Dartford until this Saturday 13th April. Well worth a look and a purchase too.

Robin Coleman - Lich Sun Stein

Robin Coleman – Lich Sun Stein

Recycled Memories - Bitches

Recycled Memories – Bitches


CS Stanley – Rigs of War

Savant - Skull (red/yellow)

Savant – Skull (red/yellow)

Lemak - Robots have feelings too

Lemak – Robots have feelings too

Mos Shaw - Fire Damage

Mos Shaw – Fire Damage

Silent Bill - Hell for Heroes

Silent Bill – Hell for Heroes

Robin Coleman - Daily Dietrich

Robin Coleman – Daily Dietrich


Hand 'In his own image'

Hand ‘In his own image’

Eska - Sector

Eska – Sector

Cize One - Utopia - "Yeah Right"

Cize One – Utopia – “Yeah Right”

Savant - Girl Face Collage

Savant – Girl Face Collage

Gee - Bad Alice (on solid oak)

Gee – Bad Alice (on solid oak)


Cize One - Me, Myself and Darkside

Cize One – Me, Myself and Darkside


Eska – On the edge


Savant - Ghost Theory

Savant – Ghost Theory



You may remember I posted back in September about the Wing Assignment. Well they’re back. With a new assignment on the horizon and some previously unseen works, the Wing Assignment spread its wings again to an insatiable crowd last Thursday night. Set in the deserted chapel of an old asylum in Peckham, (used as a venue for music video shoots, among other things) the show presented some fabulous works which were not able to be shown last time, as well as re-exhibiting previous favorites. The venue provided a suitably dramatic surrounding for the pieces, heightened by the powerful shadows which danced around the space created by the halogen lights and much-needed patio-style heaters (minus numbers in March? Really?). It resulted in a unique atmosphere; extended shadows, stained glass windows, cracked stone walls, drink, laughter and art. A bit of a bachannal if you like, but less debauched and without the hedonistic cherub (albeit with his wings). Someway through the melee, Nina, artist, curator and art marketeer extraordinaire, managed to quieten the throng to announce the eagerly awaited next assignment.

Christened the Scent Assigment, this year’s project uses the human body as its core fundamental. Not only focusing on one of the major ways in which we, as a species, input exterior information, it will explore the extremely unique individual response we all have to a common experience – the smell. Nina and Asa, the artistic partnership behind the assignment concept, have developed a special one-off scent created specifically for this project and incorporating a feremone in the concoction. Participating artists will need to record and communicate their responses and reactions to this airborne melee in order to take part.

The night before, a series of workshops took place in the asylum, primarily for kids but enjoyed by adults and teens alike. As they painted, stuck and dipped wings made from clay (and some entrepreneurial types sold a few to milling adults) Denise Baker-McClearn kept us warm and sated with a selection of her irresistible cakes, quiches, teas and coffees (see website for recipes, commissions etc).

A small selection of my photographs from the day are shown below, with a load more on Flickr (see tab at top).

To take part in the next Assignment email: and to catch a last chance glimpse at the pieces from the last show get yourself down to the William Road Gallery.

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Eracle - Alberto Fusco

Eracle (Detail) – Alberto Fusco

As art fairs go, The Other Art Fair is a personal favourite. Set in a fabulous warehouse space at Ambika P3, it takes art and the artists back to a place in which they should be, through a dialogue which needs to be happening; that of direct communication between the artists and the public. Breaking these established barriers down ties in with a general shift in culture which seems to be gaining momentum – that of the re-ignition of conversation. You will undoubtedly speak to untold numbers of people who deride (not-so)modern technology as having been the downfall of personal dialogue, but the irony is that speaking to whomever you like has never been easier. Whereas in the past you were unlikely to be able to have a direct discussion with a chosen artist/musician/writer unless you either moved in the same circles, were privileged enough to get an introduction, or lucky enough to bump into them in the street, all it now requires is a quick @ and your message is sent. Of course the recipient may embrace their prerogative and not reply, but the chances of this depend much more on the quality/interest value of your comment than your social standing and ability to get close, as it may previously have been in the past.

The Other Art Fair embraces this modern concept in a traditional manner – face to face contact – but without the (often money-orientated) gallery salesperson. Buying direct from the artist is, to me, ultimately more satisfying as an art lover, as opposed to the sales dance required of an art investor, who are more the clientele of aircraft hanger-scale ventures such as Frieze. Having been to The Other Art Fair in 2011, I then missed the 2012 incarnation but did manage to attend the 2013 artist preview at The Office Space last week. The evening took the form of a taster event, showcasing 3 specific artists in order to whet your whistle for the main exhibition at the end of this month. Both Dan Hillier and Alberto Fusco I remembered seeing at the 2011 event, but Damla Tokcan Faro came as an entirely new experience.

Hiller’s work breaches the boundaries of illustration to languish steadfastly in the boudoirs of 19th century stylistic portraiture using engraving, ink and screenprinting to produce often unsettling and surreal human and animal fusion pieces. His style mixes careful and tender treatment of detail with an underlying sense of provocation and much in the Tim Burton manner in sense (although more Film4 than Hollywood), he sets a dreamlike landscape, both within and around his portraiture. Said to encompass the ‘Steampunk’ sub-genre, I find his work rather more reminiscent of the Vanitas movement, albeit with extra humour and imagination and less adherence to the rules of our mortal framework. Instantly bringing to mind a woman in a burkha, The Veil must surely be a deliberate prodding of our modern uneasiness surrounding the issues of religious freedom, privacy and our fear of the unknown. The imagery, placement of the feathers and treatment of the medium all combine to lend the work a distinctly attractive exoticism. Other works, such as Cecilia Huntress, recall the masked ball, but with the overarching implication that the figure has become the mask; a mass of feathers replacing her traditional hairpiece, whilst Aviator leaves nothing of the original human behind and turns the idea of the mask on its head; who wears whom now?

Cecilia Huntress - Dan Hillier

Cecilia Huntress (Detail) – Dan Hillier

Alberto Fusco, in stark contrast, uses mosaic pattern and collage as his inspiration, focusing intently on the geometricity of colour and form. Starting his career as a teacher, Fusco began working as a professional artist a year and a half ago, after his freestanding sculptures began to dominate his time. By this count he must have still been working as a teacher when I saw him exhibit at the 2011 Other Art Fair, although from the interest I observed him generating at that time, I’m not surprised he soon became a full-time artist. His work is full of positive contradiction – its explicit tactility inspires the urge to touch it, to open it and yet it will not open and cannot be touched. It uses the chaos of newsprint, the dialogue and the imagery, as a visual tool, and yet the strict geometric language by which it is ruled constrains that freeflow of information; hides it behind a wall of glue and varnish. It is constructed from words and images on paper, 2D materials which, in his hands, become contained 3D objects changing as you move around them in a space. Having specialised in mosaics as part of his degree in public art, he takes inspiration from tessellation and pattern, combining it with the manipulation of magazine pages, a favourite pastime as a child. Works such as Enterpe are instinctively reminiscent of fireworks and catherine wheels, tieing in with Fusco’s own description of his pieces as being ‘like a candy shop’; joyful, colourful, uplifting.

Atena – Alberto Fusco

Damla Tokcan Faro uses digital photography and manipulation to create fairytale imagery with a sinister twist. Perfectly placed in the Alice down the rabbit hole-like areas of the The Office Space (complete with doors in decreasing sizes), his works at first seem rather saccharine; over saturated colours combined with superimposed cartoon graphics, or toy figures hinting at traditional tall tales. However, a closer look reveals darkly humorous modern comments on the realities of fairytale stories. In The Accident we see Cinderella’s fantastical coach post-pothole, amidst a tumble of fallen animals and bodies, while Mushrooms…mmm supplants the toadstool in a grassy field, alluring to its likely Lewis Carroll-inspired origins as being of the somewhat ‘magic’ variety. His choice to present the work on reflective material only helps to allude to the dreamlike illusion which surrounds the photographs, at the same time forcing the viewer to enter the scene themselves.

Mushrooms...mmm - Damla Tokcan Faro

Mushrooms…mmm – Damla Tokcan Faro

As a snapshot of the entire fair this preview could never encompass the range of artists and styles which will be shown. As a taster though, it certainly does the job. I’ll be there.

Aviator (Detail) – Dan Hillier

Eracle (Detail) – Alberto Fusco

Unknown title - Damla Tokcan Faro

Unknown title – Damla Tokcan Faro

The Veil - Dan Hillier

The Veil – Dan Hillier

Atena (Detail) – Alberto Fusco

The Accident – Damla Tokcan Faro