But it doesn’t matter really if Plum the artist in Barking says that the whole mental health issues and lining it all up with art as a cure has become trendy and therefore unhelpful because as long as you keep on putting on free art workshops people will come along and be actively encouraged to do so. I mean older people, mental issues or not.
Art workshops are luxuries for some people. Older people didn’t have the time or the money to faff about doing art stuff back in the day. They were breadwinners and home-makers, teachers and accountants, clock-watchers, and Norfolk away-days people. Art wasn’t the thing then. Felt -tips were the fashion and they were treasured, counted, lids firmly secured and put in the sideboard until next Saturday after the grocery shopping. Many of the people who subscribe to Up Your Street had never seen a sketch pad until years after they arrived at Heathrow, never touched an oil-painting until they dared. I see women shuffling words as their men ask them why they’re going out to do Mudras and symbols when tea needs to be on the table. It’s still not an easy ride. Many of the people did get an opportunity to sniff some art at their children’s parents’ evenings and whatnot. Now you will see the ones who missed “the white flight”, the ones who crocheted chair backs, those who stood all day and emptied bed-pans, you’ll see them filling up doodle art therapy workshops, clay sculpting classes for free, collage and the cutting of magazines because it’s all new or unfinished business to them. Why wouldn’t they want to be engaged in it? They rarely have the will or the time to discuss the politics behind it all: they know usually when they’re pawns in the game. They just wanna do.
Many many workshops are absolute money for old rope even if they’re free. They plough through community venues without a real understanding of social engagement. Who does get that mystifying phrase? The so-called facilitators and self-styled artists tell lies, talk in patronising ways to older people, pretend to be teachers but their use of language betrays their lacking education and all in all are readily forgotten. For over five years Up Your Street subscribers have been going to community workshops, now write reviews and are discerning clients.
At last The Guardian today quoted the artist Plum when she spoke candidly about what Mental Spaghetti is not. It ain’t art therapy and she moves away from the sexiness and popularising of outsider art. She is not interested in trends. Art as an expression for those of us 1 in 4 who use mental health facilities is trendy currently and she says that with evidence and the celebrated man of the people, John Hegley, backing her.
Art is after all business. It is hard to buck the trend especially when the funders are the architects of what must be because they hold the money. Art is business.
For a young artist to say what she said and then to get it published in the culture newspaper when all around her galleries are harping on about the inspiration that is art from mentally challenged people, is brave and very necessary.
Bravo but don’t forget what we want too.