An introduction from our Arts Editor, Eleanor Forrest:
Welcome to the first part of our series looking at the relationship between art and mental health, titled Animi, the Latin word for 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.
In recent weeks, a discussion around the state’s laissez-faire approach to mental health has dominated the media. Therefore the weight of mental health issues is largely reliant on charities, such as Manchester Mind, providing an increasingly important service.
So without further ado, I bring you our first interview with the explosive Ella Skinner conducted by Klaudia Jedyka.
Klaudia Jedyka: There has been a lot more talk and openness about mental health on social media in the past few years. Do you think there is still stigma attached to mental health issues?
Amongst people of my generation, there is certainly a lot less stigma attached to mental health issues. I feel this is partly due to an increase in mental health disorders amongst young people in the last ten years or so, a lot of us have no choice but to talk about it and support each other to find some peace. I think campaigns such as Adwoa Aboah’s Gurls Talk have definitely done so much to push mental health issues on to the mainstream agenda, issues such as eating disorders and depression are now being discussed by elite models which is pretty ground-breaking if you think about the amount of abuse and sexism historically tied to that industry. In my social circles, mental health is openly discussed, which is something a lot of us didn’t have when we were teenagers. However, I think people need to remember the online world is very different from the real world. On social media you get to choose who you want to listen to, it’s like a personalized vacuum of information that gives you exactly what you want to see. Despite all this discussion we still have a long way to come. I sometimes fear social media is the illusion of progression.
KJ: What’s your opinion on the current state of help available for those experiencing mental health struggles in the UK?
NHS mental health services are dire. Treatment is often a long and expensive process, and a lot of young people are put on dangerous, addictive medication that’s not necessarily right for them, so doctors can tick off a “cured” box and get on with their day. Waiting lists for therapy and counselling can be up to six to eight months, which isn’t at all effective if you’re in a life-threatening situation. It seems most of the time, services are fine with just sedating young people, so they are able to function within a work or educational environment, rather than fixing the problem and offering substantial support. A lot of GPs are not properly trained or even informed about mental health issues, I’ve heard a lot of horror stories from friends who have been kicked out of surgeries for simply trying to justify their depression to a medical professional. Why should you have to beg to seek help? Mental health issues should be treated just as seriously as physical conditions. The whole process is long, tedious and soul destroying and can often place you in a worse state than you were in initially, or leave you so exhausted you no longer want to seek help. I am grateful we have the NHS but their mental health services need a massive facelift.
KJ: What inspires your art?
I like eyes and crowns and Baroque Catholicism. I make art pretty much on impulse so whatever pops into my head at the time is what I’m inspired by I guess, so that can be books, people or conversations I’ve had that day. One of my main inspirations which really changed my practice is Rosenberg’s essay “The American Action Painters”, a homage to the abstract expressionists who saw painting as a psychic space to project unconscious impulses and emotions, I think Jackson Pollock is a bit of a prick though. Lee Krasner is a lot more interesting and really underrated. I also really like graffiti and hip-hop.
KJ: I noticed you have been promoting your SCUM art collective on Instagram, could you tell us more about that?
SCUM is a DIY collective based in South Manchester. SCUM consists of painters, photographers, filmmakers, poets, writers, and academics. What we do has no agenda, however, we believe in the importance of collective expression and supporting each other’s practices in a world that’s never going to pay us to do the things we need to do with our lives to stay happy and sane. We are only just starting out and still figuring out the direction we want to take, however, our work collectively covers issues such as sexuality, anthropology, radical politics and gender. We strongly believe the internet should be considered as a blank, revolutionary space that can be used to promote freedom of expression as well as ideas and practices which have historically been inaccessible and tucked away from the wider populations by bourgeois institutions. We will be releasing a zine in the coming year and are also working closely with several Northern based bands on live sessions which will feature visuals and content made in our studio space. The Northern art and music scene is hugely overshadowed by London, and a lot of creatives in Manchester and other cities are not getting the exposure or funding we deserve due to the fact we’re not from economically advantaged or socially prestigious backgrounds. One of my reasons for starting SCUM was that I felt there wasn’t enough diversity within a lot of the Manchester creative scenes, particularly within music. I think there’s so much to be said and explored and expressed within the age we live in, this generation is the huge social experiment of the century, and we should find empowerment within that rather than seeing ourselves as depressed meme-zombies.
Ella’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.
Artist Ella Skinner creates explosively loud and grotesque pieces of work, unapologetically confronting the viewer with a visual cacophony of aggressive marks. Ella undermines conventions of aesthetic pleasure and invokes discomfort through the abstract and unfamiliar. You can find her on Instagram right here.