In 1971, whilst a student at the Central School of Art and Design, Bryan Charnley was diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. After seven years of varying treatments, bouts of hospitalisation and a number of jobs, he returned to painting. Initially, he did not relate his work to his condition but, in 1982, he began to use what he termed his inner upheavals as a source of inspiration.
Bryan's ultimate creative act was the series of paintings (shown in the Art Gallery) painted between April and July 1991. They represent a deliberate attempt at self-investigation. As he experimented with the dosages of three different drugs controlling his behaviour, he kept a careful record of his medication, state of mind and the effect on the technique, composition and symbolism of his painting.
Sadly, Bryan died in July 1991 but he left us with an incredible insight into his thoughts and feelings. We would like to thank his brother, Terence Charnley, for sharing Bryan's work with us. The copyright for this work is held jointly by SANE and Terence Charnley.
Anthony was a beneficiary of a SANE Art Award which enabled him to attend a course at St Martins College of Art and Design in stained glass printing; he now holds exhibitions at Ely Cathedral.
Anthony describes the inspiration for ‘Surrender’ by saying:
“Anyone who experiences mental illness has to surrender themselves in part to faith in a greater Love.”
Paul experienced mental illness from the age of 15. The SANE Arts Fund helped to support his ambition and he became a successful artist. His painting ‘Barmy Days’, a portrait of himself and his fellow patients at the Brookwood Psychiatric Hospital was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery and has been on permanent display at The Prince of Wales International Centre for SANE Research in Oxford, since February 2003.
"I wanted to show the positive side of the mental hospital and the way it allowed us the time and space to accept our illness. The sad part of the picture is the little figure on the edge of the lawn. If he crossed into the community he would be lost forever." Paul Lake, 2001
Paul passed away in December 2006.
An artist and photographer living in Middlesborough, John's photography captures the seasons throughout Britain and has helped him to deal with his manic depression. John sometimes works by setting off on his bicycle, with his camera, covering long distances of the country. He will often be away from home for over two weeks at a time in his quest for 'the perfect picture.'
John has found that being a photographer has had beneficial effects for living and coping with mental illness. He describes his photography as taking pictures of 'unknown landscapes of mind and life…taking photos round each corner as they appear…Looking for peace of mind, opportunities come when the door opens onto the world you want to perceive'. He adds, 'by using my creative skills as a photographer, I am able to have an outlet for releasing my anxiety.'
When he becomes very ill and needs hospitalisation, John is unable to photograph. But even in the midst of deep depression there is still work going on. 'All I can do is look at my photographs from the past and know I will get better…plan my next adventure.'
John also uses his work to challenge some of the negative stereotypes surrounding mental illness.
"Suffering from a manic depressive illness does not mean you have a poor intellect. I see myself as more of an individual with great potential and with much more to offer, and would like to exhibit my work locally. Thereby presenting positive images to challenge negative stereotypes of people with mental health problems."
Bridget Pelling was the recipient of a SANE art award. The award helped her to write and publish ‘The Purrfect Little Cat Book’ – a story looking at life through the eyes of her cat Treacle.
'The Purrfect Little Cat Book' can be bought from Amazon – ISBN: 978-1-4259-6372-9.
Click here to download newspaper clippings of Bridget and Treacle.
On 6th September Bridget and Treacle will be speaking at the Ashcroft Centre in Fareham. Find out more.