JOHN JENNINGS

“My name is John Jennings. I am a practising painter, I live in south west London with my wife and art has been my life since the age of fifteen, although I have remained on the margins of the art world.

I scored a mental health double whammy, having had a sister with paranoid schizophrenia, during my childhood and teenage years, and then myself being diagnosed with manic depressive disorder in my early thirties. I have been in continuous treatment since. My experiences of living with mental health in the home, as a child, and, later, in the community have been painful and isolating.

I joined Outside In in 2012 which was a lifeline. They provided me with an online gallery, and opportunities to show some of my work in public through Bobby Baker’s Daily Life Ltd light box shows in 2014 and 2016. I have also taken part in several `In Practise’ slide shows through the RA Access programme. I also became an art workshop facilitator with Outside In and have done workshops in Chichester and London.

I don’t identify myself as an `outsider artist’, I did a fine art degree in my late thirties, but I am an `outsider’ who is obsessively driven to paint.

I am a colourist and I love paint. For me, colour and paint goes beyond words in expressing life. I hope you enjoy my paintings, the ones shown here represent some current work from 2013 to the present.”

www.outsidein.org.uk/john-jennings

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Q&A With John Moore, The Rebel magazine

Artist Harry Pye runs The Rebel magazine. He recently interviewed John Moore, who we exhibited at Menier Gallery, about art, music and some things in-between.

Please visit The Rebel’s website to see the full interview, and, of course, check out John’s website here.

The Mind Machine

Our first exhibition of the year, at the Menier Gallery, London, has swiftly come, and all too swiftly gone.

The Mind Machine was a week-long exhibition featuring eight of the ten artists we are working closely with – Yvonne Mabs Francis, John Moore, Jan Arden, Marie-Louise Plum, Mikey Georgeson, Terence Wilde and Vincent Black.

By all accounts the show was a success, drawing flatteringly positive comments – “the most original exhibition I have been to in years” and “the art is raw, and speaks to me” – and a heady, well attended private view that has resulted in interviews, reviews and new opportunity for our artists, as well as a few sales.

So here we are, saying a massive ‘well done’ and ‘thank you’ to, well, ourselves, and the artists, and to share a few images from the exhibition, courtesy of Jan Arden, Marie-Louise Plum and Yvonne Mabs Francis.


 

National Poetry Day: Life on Mercury

As if the planets had somehow aligned, just in time for National Poetry Day, Alisha contacted us to offer her assistance with our various projects, and also share her writing and poetry.

I took a break from MS admin today to add an illustration to one of Alisha’s poems – my favourite one, ‘Surprise Party’.

Please take a look at Alisha’s work on her website, Life on Mercury. I’m sure we’ll be collaborating together again very soon.

Exhibition: Exploring the unconscious, Freud Museum

What: Art exhibition,’someunconsciousthings’
When: Ends 4th October, 2015
Where: The Freud Museum, London

Running until 4 October 2015, the exhibition someunconsciousthings is a collection of art works and writing on what Goldsmiths’ experienced art therapists understand the unconscious to be, both individually and as a group.

Explore the unconscious at the Freud Museum, 8 September

Four years of research and creation by Goldsmiths, University of London art psychotherapists comes together at a special evening event at the Freud Museum on Tuesday 8 September.

All are welcome at the museum from 6-8pm on the 8th, to hear speakers from our Department of Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies discuss their project, just email susan.williams@gold.ac.uk to reserve your place.

Tutors on our MA Art Psychotherapy programme have used aspects of art therapy practice to explore their individual and collective understanding of the unconscious. While Freud’s essays were in part written as a response to scepticism of the concept; Goldsmiths researchers explore its contested relevance to contemporary art therapy practice.

Art practice in art therapy is given shape by its simultaneous involvement of artist, viewer and curator and its boundaries of time, space and materials. The drama takes place within contexts such as hospitals, schools, prisons and hospices; the players are positioned in relationships of power and unconscious and conscious processes can be explored.

“The project interacts with student learning in that we model a way of using art and writing to explore themes related to our therapeutic work,” Dr Sally Skaife, Senior Lecturer in Art Psychotherapy, explains.

“The collaborative nature of the project is important too; we make art and write separately, and then come together to explore our similarities and differences as we develop the social implications embedded in Freud’s understanding of the unconscious.”

The collective has exhibited twice previously, at the 15th European Symposium in Group Analysis at Goldsmiths in 2011, and the International Art Therapy Conference at Goldsmiths in 2013.

‘someunconsciousthings’ at the Freud Museum runs until 4 October 2015 featuring work by Christopher Brown, Kristen Catchpole, Annamaria Cavaliero, Diana Kagiafa, Jon Martyn, Lesley Morris, Lisa Rimmer, Susan Rudnik, Sally Skaife, Robin Tipple, Diana Velada, Jill Westwood.

Visit:
The Freud Museum, 20 Maresfield Gardens, London NW3 5SX
Wednesday – Sunday 12.00 – 17.00
Mondays until 24 August
Exhibitions are free with admission.
http://www.freud.org.uk

Find out more about Art Psychotherapy at Goldsmiths.

Robin Williams: Bigger than Life

On the eve of the first anniversary of Robin Williams’ death, we’d like to share this essay, written and submitted to us by the disability artist David Feingold, to shed some light on what it is like to live with bipolar disorder. Although Robin Williams had never stated himself that he suffered from any mental illhealth, it has long been speculated that he had been suffering from bipolar disorder. We would like to make it clear that we are not practising armchair psychologists, or wish to diagnose anyone. In the light of speculation, which has encouraged many people to speak out about their own experiences, or reflect on whether Robin Williams may have had similar experiences, we’re happy to share this article with you all.

We have exhibited David’s work recently, at our Mental Spaghetti exhibition at Studio 3 Arts. You can see more of his work here.

All artwork © David Feingold, 2015

Robin Williams may have been bigger than life on and off the stage and screen, but in the end a mere speck in the battle of an illness that dwarfed his fame, fortune, family and friends.

“Many of us ask how someone who presented himself as happy, vibrant and creative as Robin Williams could pull the rug out from the entire world. He fooled us. He took us by surprise. He disappointed us. He let us down.

Williams was our unofficial patron saint of happiness and hope. He was a beacon of light in our darkness of boredom, despair and mediocrity. He made us laugh, leave our troubles behind and give us the possibility that life could be better than it is.

Other articles I’ve read focus on the life of Robin Williams—his substance and alcohol abuse, his many accomplishments and heightened status in the world of nobodies. There is no reason to go into these things once again. We need something more informative. We need something substantial. We need something left behind by this genius of comedy and ultimately a slave to despair.

I have a masters in social work and a doctorate in disability studies, but this piece is not written in jargon or academic hyperbole. It is written for all of us, no matter our education, IQ score or bank account. The only prerequisite for getting something out of this essay is a beating heart and an open mind. It is simple, profound in its directness and educational. It will show that there was something other than Robin Williams’ will at play in ending his life. As you will see, it goes much deeper than that.

The following is my own experience with bipolar disorder, taken directly from my dissertation on the subject. Hopefully it will give you some closure to Robin’s death and satisfy your desire to know ‘why’.


‘Hitting Rock Bottom’

Hitting rock bottom

One of the worst things about having bipolar disorder is hitting rock bottom in a major depressed state. Ever wonder what happens to a body when it falls to the ground from a skyscraper? Well, the physical result of that fall is equivalent to the way you feel when you hit rock bottom in a bipolar depressed state. There is as much emotional life in that depressed state as there is physical life in an abrupt 60 story landing on pavement.

You are empty, void and nowhere to be found. There’s just a vacuum of a life you used to have, a name you used to claim, a person you used to know, now depleted of everything you used to be and have, like planets, stars and light itself being suck into a black hole in an abandoned, endless universe. This condition is usually referred to as an illness or a disorder. That’s like calling WWII a spat or the Holocaust bullying.

Manic depression, as it used to be called, can be a monster. All the horror stories you used to know as a child combined into one entity that lives inside you. I takes over…in the form of emptiness. All that’s left is the smoldering.


‘Mania’

Mania

Ah, mania, sweet mania. It is a major high than cannot be measured by ordinary means. Why? Because it is the opposite of its evil twin, depression. How do you describe the opposite of total, personal emptiness? How do you explain the feeling that was previously dark and void and totally emotionally painful, is now incredibly freeing with limitless happiness, confidence, creativity, and the amount of energy equivalent two ten pots of espresso? Now, just like its opposite, depression, mania can last hours, days or weeks. Days without sleep and days filled with doing things you likely would have never done, had you not been ‘blessed’ with the presence of bipolar disorder.

Typical behaviour and vices associated with manic phases of bipolar disorder are pressured speech, feelings of grandeur, overly confident, belief in one’s ability to accomplish things that otherwise would seem unrealistic, extreme impulsivity, irritability, verbal aggressiveness, sudden obsessive interest and immersion in religion and spirituality, social inappropriateness, and denial of one’s own malfunctioning behaviour.

By the way, my visual interpretation of mania is pictured above. It’s how I feel when I manage to escape the black hole of depression, just anticipating making up for lost time.


‘So What If I’m Bipolar, I’m Just Like Everyone Else’

So what if I’m bipolar, I’m just like everyone else!

The title of this section may be the name of my art piece above, but it certainly isn’t my actual belief. There is something disconcerting about having a mental illness and feeling different than anyone else, but there is something even more disconcerting about pretending or living in denial about not being like everyone else. The word, “phoney” comes to mind, as well as identity confusion. When I’m manic, I feel how the picture above looks — different. There’s no confusing this for a regular looking person or a manic person for a regular acting person.

What is bipolar disorder, anyway? You hear about it on TV and radio reports of some deranged shooter that had it, you read about it in the newspapers and magazines as part of a special interest stories. and you hear anecdotes about students and parents who have it by teachers in the staff lounge. Quite simply, bipolar disorder is considered to be a biological disease in which there are abnormal mood shifts of elevated and depressed moods, caused by alterations in brain chemistry.

Bipolar disorder is a treatable illness, which can be controlled by medication. I have already described the major symptoms of bipolar disorder from my own direct experience with the illness, so I won’t repeat that here. Instead, I’d like to present the different episodes of bipolar disorder. In addition to the depressive and manic episodes, there is the mixed episode.

Bipolar patterns present themselves different ways to different people. For example, without medication, initially infrequent episodes can increase to more frequent occurrences. Seasons of the year can ind some people becoming more manic in the spring and more depressed in winter. Individuals with rapid cycling can experience such mixed episodes continuously all year long. The episodes can also last anywhere from days to months, to years. Some with bipolar disorder can go years without symptoms, while others can have continual or frequent mild mood swings. It is important to seek a diagnosis as soon as possible, should you suspect you might be having bipolar symptoms.

The reason for doing so is to best avoid the fallout of having bipolar disorder, which includes suicide, alcohol and substance abuse, problems with one’s marriage and work, and the illness is harder to treat over time without early intervention. Bipolar disorder is found to be either genetically inherited or brought about by a problem with brain chemistry that triggers the bipolar disorder through stress, lack of sleep, substance use and different life events.

Medication, education and psychotherapy helping one deal with the illness has been found to be the most effective way of treating the disorder. For additional information, check out the Depression and Bipolar Alliance: www.dbsalliance.org.


‘Can’t See Past My Depression’

Can’t See Past My Depression

This is as true today as it was 10 years ago when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. You can’t see past it because you can’t see, period. Everything is murky, muddled and blanketed in darkness. Every once in a while there is a momentary sliver of light to ‘see’ your pain, but not beyond it. You can’t see out and it’s nearly impossible for others to reach in. I know they are there, trying to make contact with me, but I may as well be light years away. It is that futile. Without an emotional tether or human connection, we’re like a lost asteroid out of orbit and on its way to nowhere.

Depression is a lonely place. If it was located on a map, it would be on the edge, in the margin, outside of anything on this Earth. Medication is like cut and paste on a word processing application. It can take you off the margin and put you on the map. Where on the map is not known straightaway. You might find yourself on a floating iceberg, wearing nothing but a scarf, in a tropical rainforest, without as much as insect repellent, or at the bottom of the ocean, near a fault spewing steaming hot lava. At least you’re somewhere. But for how long?


‘Robin’

Robin’s Dark Cloud

Robin’s abilities were extremely unique and held sway in both the world of acting and comedy. In light of his success and professional prowess, how hopeless was Williams’ world that he would enter that eternal darkness and never look back? Hopefully, I have given you a glimpse of what Robin could no longer endure and why he chose no longer to remain. It was the dark cloud that covered him and rained on his reign.”

This essay, complete with David’s accompanying artwork, is available to download here.

London: Walking to Wellness

What: Walking tours
Where: London
When: Various! See below

Hello dear readers! Many updates coming your way soon, including a round-up of what we were doing in Barking, but in the meantime I’d like to share this news from our friends at ThinkArts!. Not strictly an art event, but an outing from an art group.

“We are pleased to announce that we have a new lot of walks to deliver over Summer 2015, entitled ‘Walking to Wellness’, thanks to the Mayor of London Free Sport initiative. I have attached a downloadable PDF poster which you are welcome to print off and share: PDF Poster Download

The first walk will be a guided tour around Lea Valley on Thursday 13th August 2015 starting from the Ice Park at 12.45pm.  We will be meeting for lunch before on the benches if you would like to turn up earlier and have a snack before we get going around the green space then we will be in the Ice Park car park from 12pm. Please contact ThinkArts! beforehand so that I have your details and expect you to arrive.

If you or someone you know would like to join us on any of the walks – the dates are as follows:

Dates of the walks:
*Thursday 13th August
*Thursday 20th August
*Thursday 28th August
*Friday 4th September
*Friday 11th September
*Monday 14th September
*Monday 21st September
*Tuesday 29th September
*Tuesday 6th October
*Wednesday 14th October