Welcome to our series looking at the relationship between art and mental health, titled Animi, the Latin word for the mind.
As some of you may know, we’re hosting our second ArtBox on the 13th of December, bringing you a not-so-silent art auction in aid of the mental health charity, Manchester Mind. ArtBox involves a range of artists, both underground and professional, both local and based in lands afar. The date also involves live music and a selection of Funraising’s most coveted DJs. Animi comes in preparation for this special event, where Funraising’s most inquisitive writers speak with the artists involved in Artbox 2, unveiling a range of opinions and artistic perceptions of mental health.
Our second interview with the heartfelt and honest Elizabeth Corrall conducted by Eleanor Forrest.
Eleanor Forrest: How important is art in developing discussion around mental health?
I think it’s the most important, for me the only way I can release my feelings is by taking photos and painting or doing collages because I find it peaceful, and then you have this physical thing that says how and feel. By creating you open up a conversation in a peaceful manner, it’s a coping mechanism to create a discussion about mental health, because usually you have one argument saying its attention seeking and the other arguing that it is a real and genuine thing. When something is framed it feels more valid and through creating works of art I feel more confident in talking about these issues because I have something to back up how I feel and it makes it valid. It doesn’t matter what the artwork looks like because every single piece about mental health is contradicting the stereotypes that appear when people think about it.
EF: Your series Soft Pink (pictured above and below) deals with how mental health is portrayed or framed in a particular way for social media, what do you mean by that ?
I have really bad anxiety and OCD and it limits things in my life and most of the time I look really ugly when I’m having a panic attack. People don’t look nice when they think ‘oh god I didn’t wash my hands before I ate this I’m going to die” its not an attractive thought. On social media people discuss leaving social media to look after their health and they use a pretty picture of clouds or flowers and it’s almost idolising this beautifully distressed woman idea. Having OCD is not an unattractive thing but the things it makes you do are, and then when you try and say that online people come back to you saying ‘oh you’re beautiful’ and ‘love yourself’ and that doesn’t help. Sometimes you need to see how bad things are to understand that it can be better and Soft Pink just came from that anger; if you post something on social media, as long as its pretty people will understand it. When I was younger I spent a lot of time on Tumblr, as everyone did, and you’d see stories about people having panic attacks or characters would kiss and the female character’s self harming would magically disappear but thats not the validation someone with a mental illness needs, what someone with a mental health illness needs is someone to say ‘i’m getting you to a therapist’. It’s better to get help rather than glorifying it.
EF: Do you think that issues surrounding mental health have a time limit in the public eye?
Definitely, on TV programmes there’s certainly a quota on how much they fit into a storyline. Regarding social media there’s these accounts that post about depression hotlines but they only share their service when someone [in the public eye] has actually killed themselves. That sucks because people forget and then another celebrity will commit suicide and then we discuss it again. We don’t keep the doors open and you definitely see somewhere on TV discussing mental health in the workplace once every 6 weeks and we need more than that. There was also the Lloyds TSB advert [regarding mental health struggles] and I was thinking if my bank has to tell me this, what is everyone else doing ? Why can’t other people or groups or the Government? It definitely gets put on the back burner, its like if you can’t see it physically then there’s nothing wrong, unless there’s physical problems like someone looking sinewy they won’t do anything about it, just because you can’t see the broken leg doesn’t mean its not broken and that annoys me.
EF: Tell me about your process with the polaroids.
I got a polaroid camera for my 18th birthday and since then I have taken nothing but polaroids, I love them. I think you can tie the revival of polaroids to the insta gratification age of social media. For me I hate things that are pretty and in art I really don’t like pieces that people like because they’re pretty (apart from Monet!) My main thing with my polaroids is mixed medium, I love drawing on them and painting them, making them stand out as a piece of work that isn’t attractive but creepy. With polaroids, because they’re framed in such a small box, you can look at the tiny things. In my polaroids I have some that I’ve painted black and they connote isolation and sometimes thats fuelled by anxiety when leaving the house. Taking them on polaroids, I can take a small thought and make it something bigger and better.
Elizabeth’s art will be available for purchase at Funraising’s silent art auction event, ArtBox, which is raising funds for the charity Manchester Mind. The auction will take place on December 13th, Solomon’s, from 5 pm to midnight.
Enjoying the miniature aspect of polaroids, Elizabeth uses them as her main as her tool to create her work conveying her own mental health struggles. In 2017 Elizabeth expanded on this and, incorporating a different medium, she created the photo series Soft Pink. Using a Dinner Party setting, the series inverted the aesthetic people place onto mental health in the world of social media, worried about this damaging aesthetic, Elizabeth wanted to show the uglier side of mental health, and that there should be no shame in acknowledging this. You can access her Instagram here.