On 10 October, on World Mental Health Day, the new exhibition Out of Sight, Out of Mind was launched at Summerhall. Now returning for its seventh year, the amount of artworks presented has grown to an astonishing 400 since its debut in 2013 as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival. The multimedia exhibition features any possible form of art imaginable – from wood structures, mirror installations, earthenware, plaster to any material that produces an imprint on anything that can be considered a blank sheet. The diversity of media shows the diversity of experiences the hundreds of artists have experienced or experience on a daily basis with their mental health issues. The artworks create a voice for them and give them the ability to communicate these experiences to a wider audience, without attaching these experiences to themselves specifically and thus breaking the barrier between themselves, their experience and the viewer/listener. Out of Sight, Out of Mind has different meanings for people who exhibit in, organise and visit the exhibition.
The artists presented in Out of Sight, Out of Mind are funded and support by various groups, such as CAPS Independent Advocacy, NHS Lothian Sense of Belonging Arts Programme and Edinburgh and Lothian Health Foundation. Coming from different backgrounds, and being created in different contexts and for different reasons, the artists in the exhibition demand the visitor's attention for them as individuals, regardless of their DSM diagnosis, name, condition or therapy group. A variety of motivations, ranging from personal expression, development of artistic practice, experiencing the therapeutic benefits of working in a group or solo, formal art therapy or political activism stands behind the artists choice to submit the artwork to the open call for the exhibition.
The point of the exhibition is not to exhibit the head-clutching well-known image of the mentally ill patient, nor is it to exhibit artworks created in a hospital setting or under therapy. In fact, the labels accompanying the artworks are written by the artists themselves, who choose whether they want to add additional information, write their name, or even mention what they are dealing with in a day to day life. Out of Sight, Out of Mind, is simply an exhibition by artists who through various means share an aspect of their life, which may or may not have been influenced by their mental health issues. The result is a refreshing mix of bright vibrant colours and breath-stopping raw expressions of emotion and perception. At times it deals with very tough subjects, and at times it just wants the visitor the know that the artist is happy and doing okay. With enough book-material to read up on, volunteers to help you out if you're feeling (emotionally) unwell, and flyers and leaflets of where to go if the experience was a bit too familiar or triggering, Out of Sight, Out of Mind tries to break the stigma surrounding various mental health issues and shows that in the end we are all individuals, going through better and rougher times. To all the artists who have participated - we are listening.
For more information on mental health and the arts in Edinburgh, and on how to participate in Out of Sight, Out of Mind 2020, see www.mhfestival.com.
The artwork is 'Untitled' by participating artist Derek Higgisson.