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  • Writer's pictureSarah Moncrieff

Mental Health Exhibition at Cornerstone Arts Centre, Didcot.

My painting “Prison Yard” is going on show on Thursday 10th May until Sunday 17th June as part of Cornerstone Art Centre’s exhibition entitled “Mental Health”.

One of the aspects that motivates me as an artist involves embracing the challenge of making something visually exciting from the bland, harsh and institutional areas of a city and to this end I have painted the secure institutions Broadmoor Hospital and Bullingdon Prison.

However, I also painted these last two places to serve as a reminder of their existence. By presenting them in a visually interesting way I hope that we stop and notice rather than disregard them and thereby I aim to challenge the preconceived notions people hold of these environments. After all, these institutions are as much a part of our environment and society as anywhere else. Painting them challenges the comfortable and clichéd images of our society and reminds us that these other places exist and within these places and buildings people live, suffer, die and survive.

In my previous work as a mental health lawyer, I saw first hand how difficult it is for people, whether prisoners or patients, to live in an institutional environment. The most commonly used estimate is that 90% of the prison population is mentally unwell.

Prison and secure hospital environments can be particularly harsh, and prisoners have to contend with having little time outside their cells to access normal and fulfilling activities with no, or very little, access to green spaces or nature. The emptiness of the exercise yard depicted in my “Prison Yard” painting reflects the emptiness of many of the prisoners’ lives.

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