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"Art isn't just drawing. Art is so much more than that."

Dale from Gosport tells us about how creating art has been an important part of her mental health journey and how her new exhibition 'Unhooked' will showcase the work of other artists depicting their own struggles with mental health issues

Dale from Gosport
Unhooked exhibition will be held at Yellow Edge Gallery, Stoke Road, Gosport, Hampshire from October 8th - 17th 2021.

The exhibition will showcase the work of 20 artists, each depicting their own struggles with mental health issues. Our artists so far have all, in some way, utilised art as an outlet, and a way to channel their feelings and experiences.

As curator, I have sought a variety of artistic styles, not only to make the exhibition engaging for visitors but also to illustrate the huge variety of artist mediums that can be enjoyed. I think a lot of people think 'art isn't for me because I can't draw.' I can categorically state that I can't draw anything beyond stick men (and even they're a bit rubbish!) but I can create faux finishes mimicking metal; I can draw random shapes and colour them; I can flick paint at a mannequin to create a fabulous spatter design (I heartily recommend that one! Gets the stress out!) 

Art isn't just drawing. Art is so much more than that. 

So I would say to anyone who thinks they can't do it, just grab some pens or chalks or pencils and start scribbling from your heart. You'll be amazed at what comes out.

So far, we have some fabulous art. We have Adam Riches who is a ballpoint pen artist, Tom Fry who has a style similar to Picasso, Truly Lost who does amazing things with charcoal, Charlotte Hampson who teaches mindful painting combined with yoga – and then there's me who turns unwanted shop mannequins into sculptures and 3D art. We're a really diverse bunch, and I hope that seeing these incredible artworks gives a new perspective to mental health struggles for viewers. I was so determined to get some really edgy and credible artists and art into the gallery for Unhooked. I want it to be an exhibition that will draw people in from the street as they pass. I wanted colour and intrigue and depth and darkness. I want people to look at the works and think wow, these are funky and credible and talented – oh and these people also are inspired by their mental health experiences. 

I didn't want Unhooked to be a cliché of mental health issues.

I would like the exhibition to be a positive thing rather than it being the usual attitude of 'here we are, broken people. Feel sorry for us'. I know I personally use my 'differentness' as a motivation and inspiration rather than a hindrance.

The reason I chose the name Unhooked was because that is a word that has been integral to my own therapeutic journey. There have been times when I've been with my counsellor Julia, giving myself a really hard time and expecting everything to change and be better immediately. And she would say to me 'imagine a piece of velcro. Try to unhook loop by loop and be proud of every one rather than expecting everything you're feeling to change right now.' She also encouraged me to use my art to 'unhook' from expectations and things like social media that I felt were pushing down on me.

The idea for Unhooked came about three months into the first lockdown. I had a mannequin with a head, which I don't usually work with, and I messaged my friend to inspire me for what to do with her. I'd very recently had a very hard time courtesy of social media and the expectation that come with it, and between us we somehow came up with her being made into a bit of a protest piece to vent how I was feeling. An idea started to grow in my mind and before long, The Four Influencers of the Apocalypse were born. I began working with Steve and Irene at Yellow Edge not long after, and I suggested to Steve that, given how creating the Four Influencers had helped me, maybe we could have an exhibition of works created by others using art to 'vent'. The Four Influencers will be getting their debut at Unhooked!

Having suffered mental health issues in varying degrees of severity since I was 17, I have experienced all too often how hard it is to get help. 

I'm lucky that I can afford to pay to go to a counsellor each month, and that I've found an absolutely incredible therapist who completely understands me. But that took me until I was 40 years old! That's 23 years of wondering what to do to make the feelings stop. It's so easy to feel like you're a burden, that there's something wrong with you or that you need to 'get over it' when you feel terrible. Charities like Solent Mind offer hope and acceptance to sufferers that don't know where to turn.

Aside from raising money, I want people to realise that in some cases, mental health and being different can be channeled into something positive.

It's not a curse. Just because at times your mind doesn't behave the way you'd like, you're not broken. You can be a successful artist. You can create amazing things. You can have a sense of humour about your experiences. You can enjoy colour and freedom of expression. I also want people to see how amazing a tool art can be to get things 'out'. I want people to look at us, not by any means a traditional bunch of artists, all with our foibles and habits and malfunctions and think if we can do this, so can they. Pick up an art tool and go for it!

We are still looking for artists so if anyone reading is interesting, they can message through the Unhooked instagram page or email me.

As long as Covid permits, the exhibition will be free to visit during the normal opening hours of Yellow Edge during the dates above. We will be having a launch night on 8th where people can meet the artists. There will be yoga painting sessions with Charlotte Hampson on one of the days tbc. Tom Fry will be doing poetry readings. And on the final day we will be having an art auction, to which all of our artists will be donating a piece of art, and all money raised with be coming to Solent Mind! We are hoping to get a couple of famous people to donate a sketch to auction off, so if any famous people are reading and fancy picking up a pen, get in touch via Solent Mind or Unhooked!

Find Unhooked Exhibition on instagram: 

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