I have often been described as a “craaaazzzzzy” guy well guess what? I am! I am prone to anxiety attacks, depression, agoraphobia and all sorts of nastiness of a mental nature. I am, in the common vernacular, mental I am. As such, I have to occasionally resort to specialist help and support to do things that others may take for granted. Over recent years that help has dwindled thanks mainly to Britain’s current appalling government and all the massive cuts brought about by the banking crisis under the previous lot. In the area I live in, Mind has gone as have Bridgebuilders. I first turned up at the doors of the Together Centre in Stockleigh Road, St Leonards a couple of years back. Reeling from a very silly decision by an extremely litigious data processing company that didn’t give a toss as to what damaged they had caused to my mental health on behalf of a bunch of toffs who needed scapegoats for their banking chums greed and stupidity. O.K. Rant over! Anyway, Hastings Your Way, the team at the Together Centre help when I need to go somewhere new and / or scary. Or help me make phone calls. For others they help to provide a good meal, advice, company or a chance to pursue a hobby or get fit. Often, the service users help out in some way, with a bit of cooking or by sharing their skills. Being potentially lethal in the kitchen and a bit of a space cadet with limited energy around other people I thought the best thing I could do is what I do. Which is paint stuff. I took it upon myself to do portraits of both other service users and the centre’s staff. Obviously, there are some major issues around doing a portrait of someone who has mental health problems but I figured my very simplistic style of representation gifts each subject with a high degree of anonymity, and indeed deniability, should they wish it. The way I work is this, I have a chat with someone and find out a little be about them, what they do or did, their family, their pets, their favourite things, where they came from and how they ended up in Hastings. While they talked I made a couple of little sketches, hair, clothes, tattoos, basically anything that struck me about them. Then I’d go off and have a think and a daydream. Taking an ideas for a walk… Seeing where it ends up. After doing the first few, the word got ’round and people were requesting to be “done” so to speak. Whilst doing the portraits over the course of about a year, I also came up with a few group ideas, including a final piece in which I tried to combine bits and bobs from all the portraits plus a few cameos and some general themes than began to occur to me. All Together Now! shows the The Together Centre, Carisbrooke House as an Ark of sorts. I am not at all religious but I see it as somewhere to go when the rain in my life turns into a downpour. A place of safety, a refuge etc. I think it also suggests on another level that we are all in the same boat. I.e this strange human condition where one tragedy, one bad decision or one wrong turn can lead one’s life to a vulnerable state where we need a little bit of help. I did both the staff and service users to make a point, we are all just people. There are no differences, everyone has a story to tell and everyone is amazing in their own way. When these paintings have been on show, everyone is getting their own one for nothing. I was very concerned at the outset that the issue of money and or/ ownership would cloud the issue and put people off being done and I want everything about this to be completely stress free. Well for everyone but me that is. Hopefully it was worth it but that is really for other’s to judge.
You can view the work at the Hastings Your Way open day on Thursday 5th of June 2014.