On the first of October Liverpool’s first ever Mental Health Festival commenced.  Spanning the first two weeks of the month, the festival is taking over a multitude of venues across the city, hosting a vast array of free events and activities to promote good mental well being and to tackle the stigma surrounding mental illness.

One of the offerings of the festival is an art exhibition organised by the Liverpool Mental Health Consortium, the patrons of which are the internationally renowned British Artists, cited by Simon Schama as the “artistic face of modern Britain”; the Singh Twins. The exhibition showcases work by people from Liverpool and Merseyside, chosen for display by an independent panel of local artists and creatives who work closely with those experiencing mental illness. The exhibition’s central theme is one of ‘Respect’ surrounding the issues of mental distress: this serves as the exhibition’s title also, showing how pivotal this idea is to explaining the art on show.

With initial submissions of art to the panel being so many in number, the exhibition has been split between two venues: The Baltic Creative and Unit 51 as the first space and Constellations as the second.

The pieces from the ‘Respect’ exhibition on display at The Baltic Creative and Unit 51 are now open to the public. Unit 51’s creative energy serves as an ideal background to this deeply through provoking exhibition. Sheltered within the Shed exhibition room, the art speaks for itself. Paintings hung boldly on the walls of the intimate space draw your eye immediately upon entry with their bold colours and engrossing subjects, while the sculptures on display in the space offer some of the most poignant reflections of the exhibition as a whole.

Tackling a range of mental health issues including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and anxiety and featuring images from the vivid dreams experienced whilst on medication the pieces in the exhibition are diverse in subject and yet when displayed together create a raw, beautiful showcase of both human frailty and strength.

Artists on display include Kelly Evans, whose piece ‘This Could Have Been a Happy Painting’ serves as a powerful message of the emotional turmoil of mental illness:

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Virginia Chandler with her contribution ‘I Am’ which draws on the unique issues of personality disorder:

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And Alan Murray with his painting ‘Curtains’, focusing upon a man who is fracturing and splintering apart, an external, physical representation of the inner impacts of instability:

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The exhibition is a must see, both in terms of its artistic merit and its impetus in raising awareness of mental health issues.

The ‘Respect’ art exhibition is on show at the Baltic Creative and Unit 51 until the 16th of October.

The second installation of the exhibition will follow, opening at Constellations from the 10th -16th of October.

For more information about the Liverpool Mental Health Festival and the ‘Respect’ Exhibition please visit: http://www.liverpoolmentalhealth.org/festival/