Victoria Matthews, 2014, embroidery, image courtesy of NSW CAG

Victoria Matthews, 2014, embroidery, image courtesy of NSW CAG

“We believe the point of art in general is to offer therapeutic assistance; it should help us to better endure and enjoy our lives.” – Alain de Botton, Art as Therapy

 Recovery in Art 2014 is the fourth annual exhibition organised by the New South Wales Consumer Advisory Group – Mental Health Inc (NSW CAG) in celebration of Mental Health Month. Following on from the successes of the previous exhibitions, Recovery in Art 2014 will be hosted this year in the historic Muse building, Ultimo TAFE. The exhibition opens on the 8th of October and will be open to the public until the 10th of October.

Recovery in Art 2014 aims to foster discussion and raise awareness about mental health by inviting artists with lived experience of the illness to exhibit their work. Mental illness will affect 1 in 5 Australians, meaning that we are all likely to be affected by it whether personally or through our loved ones. One of the biggest challenges facing people suffering from mental illness is not only the debilitating effects of the illness itself, but also the discriminatory attitudes that can affect the everyday life and recovery process. Recovery in Art 2014 is an exhibition that aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness by making these issues visible, and engaging with the broader community.

This year NSW CAG received more than 100 submissions from artists all around Australia. Some of these artists have been creating for years, while others may be displaying art for the very first time in their lives. The diverse range of artworks in the exhibition range from traditional mediums such as painting and sculpture to other new forms including video installation and poetry. There is no singular artistic style that unites the work, and the diversity on display highlights the unique and individual experiences of the artists. What the works in Recovery in Art share, however, is a common attitude towards art as a means of recovery. As viewers we gain not only insights into the private lives and experiences of those affected by mental illness, but are also made aware of the restorative and empowering potential of art to transform lives.

Recovery in Art 2014 is an exhibition about the people and individual voices behind the statistics. Art is not only an expression of human creativity, but it can also communicate across boundaries and borders. While it is easy to think of mental illness as something that affects the inner world, Recovery in Art takes a step towards opening up conversation and discussion by presenting tangible expressions of inner lived experiences. Ultimately, Recovery in Art is an exhibition about our capacity to endure and recover – and that is something that should be wholly celebrated.

Exhibition essay written for the Recovery in Art exhibition held 8 – 10 October, 2014 at the Muse, Ultimo TAFE, Sydney, and published in the catalogue.

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