Layers - An exhibition of the outcomes from SEAS's Art Therapy creative programme at the BMECP
07/05 to 15/06 BMECP Centre 10/a Fleet St. Brighton BN1 4ZE
This exhibition presents the work that emerged during a series of workshops, originally facilitated by Sara Alsaraf, a Creative Arts Therapist. The space was imagined as a safe place for artists who identify as BAME and/or LGBTQI to meet and explore their wellbeing and experiences throughout the pandemic. The group was formed of four diverse participants whom all have very different bodies and identities. Our art was produced alongside conversations about how CoVID-19 had impacted upon our us as marginalised folk, whilst also recognising the long-term embodied impact that racism, ableism, colonialism and institutional trauma have had upon our bodies. We identified experiences that have harmed us and how we carry these in flight, fight, freeze and appeasement reactions. Anxiety, stress and uncertainty feature in our daily lives; getting to know one another, we shared our ways of dealing with this. For some of us, the lockdowns were comfortable and opened up doors through an online connection that was previously impossible to find; for others, we felt profound isolation and disconnection. Our discussions were animated through art- we spent time during the session creating art alongside one another. Each participant produced a number of artworks whilst focusing on themes that were presented to them during the workshops. We used different media and techniques, some of us working alongside one another, some of us in private. Following discussions around power and institutional harm, we made the decision to shift from having a sole facilitator and instead continue meeting as a collective to explore our many layers and layered connections.
Sara Alsaraf is a creative arts therapist, originally from Iraq, born in Scotland. She is a facilitator of connections and spaces where people can explore their (well)being, particularly for people from marginalised backgrounds.
About the work
Themes, quotations from the participants and my process notes are seen here interwoven within sacred geometric patterns. Sacred geometry reflects patterns in nature and has been used in Islamic architecture and art for centuries. I use it here as a container for our space, in which manifestations, connections and dynamics evolved.
Edi Mandala is an Artivist (an Artist that directs all creativity to Anti Racist Activism) - born in England of 'Windrush descent', in 2016 he began BLAQ MUSE (multimedia, archiving, memoir and wellbeing process), that is aimed at healing racist trauma caused by living in 'hostile environments', and empowering all victims of systemic racism, by creating new perspectives that focus upon Reclamation, Resolution and Reparations.
About the work
Part of the BLAQ MUSE process requires me to develop new skills in editorship and to work in solidarity with 'People Of Difference'.
In response to the themes arising from group working interactions, I produced videos with formats that combine graphic storytelling, and concrete poetry, which is presented in a style that is influenced by the theoretical frameworks of Black Quantum Futurism.
Talulah Miers is a multidisciplinary artist fascinated by psychology, consciousness, and nature, she find myself exploring the intriguing places where they overlap.
After time as an environmental activist and a community artist, Talulah returned to education, graduated from Staffordshire University in fine art, and almost completed a Master's program in Brighton, before leaving due to ill health. Working to find ways to keep making in my altered circumstances proved transformative to both my creativity and life.
Talulah delves into themes deeply, playing with approaches until reaching a point of fulfilment. Looking to achieve a kind of emotional or notional catharsis, she can sometimes find this rooted in pure sensory satisfaction. ‘Painting the air’ is a phrase I’ve used to help describe my approach to installations in particular: a layering of elements that has become typical of her approach.
About the work
When the wonderful Sara asked us to explore what lockdown meant for us at the start of our sessions, it was the perfect opportunity to delve into how this revitalising (!) experience had worked for me. It was also related to my lockdown diagnoses, in July 2020, of Autism, ADHD and PDA. Lockdown also brought online connections with those communities, and a steep learning curve as I absorbed how deeply those conditions had shaped my life for the 46 years before diagnosis.
I am one of those who felt born to art; but I’ve also wrestled with an intermittent artist’s block, which left me divorced from my creativity for long stretches, despite huge efforts.
Lockdown marked the exciting process of finally solving this lifelong mystery, and for the first time being able to consciously pull myself out of it (a miracle)! The issue was born from neurodiversity and trauma (extremely common amongst the neurodiverse). I’m not complaining - the source of my creativity is deeply rooted in these things. I’ve been given intense joys, fascinations and transcendent experiences, along with the aspects that would be far less troublesome in a more inclusive world.
I also have ME, symptomatic hypermobility (both very common amongst Autistics/ADHDers) and other related issues, and have been variously house and bed bound for years. Lockdown, as for many others like me, had the opposite effect and expanded my life beyond recognition: Suddenly I was able to access online workshops, life classes and galleries across the world, previously inaccessible.
What followed was at first tentative… but working in small online groups suits me, and I gradually re-found my feet and developed a new creative language; one that had been slowly emerging for several years, mostly thanks to my magickal practise.
The art therapy had a crystallisation effect, like sun through a magnifying glass; then amalgamating it into an art exhibition enabled me to step back, really see, then expand on that process. Additionally, the effect of having a space open to bouncing these ideas around with other artists was unexpectedly huge. Looking back 2/3 years, life is unrecognisable now from what it was then.
Not that it’s been a smooth process without difficulties. Let’s not forget covid - I’ve had more than my fair share of it. Additionally, working towards having my work shown publicly after a long hiatus has triggered my PTSD in a thousand ways. It’s been what’s known as “a huge experience for personal growth” Of course, it wasn’t just me that had covid, so the art therapy group wasn’t able to meet up as much as planned, which meant the working together aspect was almost entirely removed, which was a large part of the fix for my block. It’s been a sort of psychological and creative carnage (hence the title of one piece).
Overall, this work is about finding safety in a small space; making a home, and allowing that safety to help you heal. Sanctuary. In a world desperately full of refugees it is about how essential it is to heal trauma. It is about finding peace, healing, and breaking out to fly free. I am still mostly horizontal, but now when my head is clear and there are enough spoons (look up spoon theory), there’s a pencil, or a paintbrush, or pastels in my hand, and paper and scissors and glue and a million ideas clamouring to manifest themselves. And finally they have a chance to break out instead of being written in a notebook that gathers dust.