09 January 2018

Drawing Tuesday - Museum of the Mind

Last week's visit to Bethlem Museum of the Mind (in Beckenham, via Croydon) was most interesting. First of all, Bethlem Royal Hospital has a long history - it was founded in 1247 and has moved from location to location over the years. From the name of this mad-house (or lunatic asylum)  comes the word "bedlam". In the 18th century, it was a recreational outing to go and stare at the peculiar behaviour of the patients - this was stopped in 1770.

Another now-reviled practice that was stopped (by act of Parliament in 1890) was restraint, with chains and later with straight-jackets. ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), which started in the 1930s,  has found a new, if still controversial, niche. 

Of course the entire history of treatment of mental illness was not what we were there for, and we sat down and did some drawing, focusing on the current exhibition, The Art of Recovery (till 24 Feb) - sculptures created by wounded, sick and injured service personnel and their families.
Life sized figures made of metal mesh

The project was coordinated by Al Johnson, who also made this piece, Broken

Joyce's drawing
 Joyce also spent time with the ink-blots -
The Rorsach Test was used until the 1960s
 Janet drew two of the "Art of Recovery" figures -

 ... and I started with this humble, but historical, object -
 ... got the perspective a bit wrong, and then tried to add its context -
 Moving quickly to extra-curricular activities -

Joyce had been to the RachelWhiteread exhibition and seen her use of flattened packaging -
We suggested she paint the background white - the difference was even more striking as the silver sheen caught the light -
Janet had spent time drawing her Christmas table decoration -
Something that struck me particularly at the museum was a large, intricate, complicated painting that made me think of the work of Richard Dadd, a 19th century painter who created most of his work while he was in psychiatric hospitals. This work, called The Maze, is by a Canadian painter called William Kurelek - he was admitted in 1952 and given room to paint - the painting can be interpreted as a means of justify this privilege. He describes it as a painting of the inside of his skull, and provided a description in his biography, Someone With Me.

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