Art of Psychiatry Society

Upcoming Art of Psychiatry Society meeting: Speaker meeting about Sylvia Plath with Dr Sarah Bayley Thurs Dec 3rd 1800 Sem Rm 1 IoPPN All welcome!
November 11, 2015, 8:27 pm
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File:Sylvia plath.jpg


Upcoming Art of Psychiatry Society meeting:

‘The Girl Who Would Be God: Sylvia Plath’s Omnipotent Self-Creation’
Speaker meeting with Dr Sally Bayley
Venue: Seminar Room 1 Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.
Date: 3rd December 2015
Time: 1800
Please join us for our final meeting of the year!
Sally Bayley, writer and critic, will discuss Sylvia Plath’s juvenile artistic manifesto. Drawing upon a provocative diary entry written when Plath was 17, Sally will explore Plath’s commitment to divine role play and magical thinking.

The session will include a showing of a short film by film maker, Suzie Hanna, commissioned by Sally for a festival celebrating Plath’s creative life.
Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963) was an American poet, novelist, and short-story writer. She is best known for her confessional poetry and her semi-autobiographical novel ‘The Bell Jar’, as well as her troubled marriage to fellow poet Ted Hughes.  Plath was depressed for much of her adult life and committed suicide in 1963 in London.

About Sally Bayley:

Sally Bayley is a Teaching and Research Fellow at The Rothermere American Institute, Oxford, and a tutor in English at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University. She is the author of Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath’s Art of the Visual (Oxford University Press, 2007). Eye Rhymes was the first study of Plath’s art work in relation to her body of poetry and prose and was featured in the Sunday Times magazine, on Radio 4 and at the Royal Festival Hall alongside a series of uniquely commissioned pieces of theatre, dance, art and animation, several of which won awards.

Sally has just completed a study of the diary as an art form: ‘The Private Life of the Diary, from Pepys to Tweets’ to be published by Unbound books next spring.

This is an open meeting and all are welcome (including SLaM employees, psychiatry trainees, service users, members of the public).  No need to book.  It’s okay to turn up late.  Entrance is free!

Crisps and wine provided.

Contact us:


How to find the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience:

Art of Psychiatry speaker meeting 20 August 2015 1800hrs R Murray Room A IoPPN “Bryan Charnley: The Art of Schizophrenia”
July 28, 2015, 10:22 pm
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Bethlem Exhibition

Pam and Me (c) The Estate of Bryan Charnley



Upcoming Art of Psychiatry speaker meeting on Thursday 20 August

“Bryan Charnley: The Art of Schizophrenia”

Date: 20 August 2015

Time: 1800

Venue: Robin Murray A Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience
Please join us for what will be a fascinating AoP meeting with our speaker Kirsten Tambling

Bryan Charnley (1949-1991) was a British artist whose work sought to convey the experience of living with schizophrenia, a condition with which was first diagnosed at art college. After several years of painting photo-realistic depictions of the world around him, in the mid-1980s Charnley turned his attention to self-portraiture and what he called ‘bondaged heads’ – fractured ‘portraits’ that drew inspiration from William Kurelek’s The Maze. Charnley’s work formed the basis for Bryan Charnley: the Art of Schizophrenia, the inaugural exhibition at Bethlem Museum of the Mind. This talk, by the exhibition’s curator, will explore Charnley’s approach to painting as it developed throughout his career, and will focus on the idea of coming (as Charnley put it) ‘face to face with schizophrenia’, by examining the recurring motifs of faces and (self-)portraiture in Charnley’s work.
About Kirsten Tambling:

Kirsten Tambling was guest curator of the exhibition Bryan Charnley: The Art of Schizophrenia at Bethlem Museum of the Mind (16 February – 22 May 2015) and has previously worked in the curatorial departments of the Royal Collection, the National Gallery and Dr Johnson’s House. She has an MPhil in eighteenth-century studies from the University of Cambridge and an MA in Curating from the Courtauld Institute of Art. Her PhD, beginning this September, will focus on the intersections between William Hogarth and Jean-Antoine Watteau. She tweets at @otherplications.

This is an open meeting – all are welcome – including service users, SLaM employees, psychiatry trainees, and members of the public.
Directions of how to reach the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) are found here:
About us:  Creative artists and psychiatrists share an interest in human behaviour and motivation but approach this subject in different, but equally valid, ways. The Art of Psychiatry society holds speaker meetings and events where this spared space is explored.

Contact us:



Other events of interest:

“Art and the Other” curated by Juliette Brown, Alana Jelinek and Michaela Ross

Art and the Other brings together art works and objects that raise questions about our relationship to others and otherness. The Bethlem Gallery artists chosen give voice to human and non-human actors who are often relegated to the margins, confronting us with an otherness that can never be fully captured but nonetheless demands our attention.

Exhibition runs 15 July – 8th August Wednesday – Friday 10am – 5pm at the Bethlem Gallery

Free entrance – all welcome

Cancelled: Screening of “The Arbor” followed by Q&A with director Clio Barnard. 6pm 17 February Wolfson Lecture Theatre IoPPN
February 1, 2015, 10:40 pm
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the arbor
Update 8 February 2015
Unfortunately due to unforseen circumstance we have had to cancel this event.  We are sorry for any disappointment or inconvenience caused.  We will post details of upcoming meetings in due course. 
Upcoming Art of Psychiatry Society meeting held in colloration with the Maudsley film club

Screening of film The Arbor (2010) followed by Q&A with director Clio Barnard.

Tuesday 17th February 2015 at 6pm in The Wolfson Lecture Theatre, Institute of Psychiatry Psychology and Neuroscience

Please join us for a film screening and Q&A of The Arbor (2010) on Tuesday 17th February 2015 at 6pm in The Wolfson Lecture Theatre, IoPPN.

We are thrilled that the writer and director, Clio Barnard, recently awarded the inaugural Wellcome Trust and BFI Screenwriting Fellowship, will be joining us to discuss her original and moving film following the screening.The Arbor is an experimental documentary on the life of the playwright Andrea Dunbar and meditation on memory and family relationships.Andrea Dunbar grew up on one of the roughest estates in Bradford but against the odds, wrote three plays, all produced at The Royal Court, including “Rita, Sue and Bob Too” (later made into a successful film). She was on the brink of major success but drinking heavily and sadly died of a brain haemorrhage in a public house aged just 29. She was survived by three children.Barnard explores her extraordinary life and legacy using actors lip synching real interviews with her children, archive footage of Dunbar, and restaged excerpts from her plays on the estate where she lived. They reveal the subsequent impact on her children and show how different their experiences and memories of the same events can be.Trailer for the film:

Speaker meeting: Professor Roger Cardinal – “Responding to Outsider Art” Institute of Psychiatry Tuesday 23 September 6pm Seminar room 1
September 5, 2014, 8:46 pm
Filed under: Art, Uncategorized


Upcoming Art of Psychiatry Speaker meeting meeting:

Professor Roger Cardinal – “Responding to Outsider Art”

Institute of Psychiatry Tuesday 23 September 6pm Seminar room 1

Outsider art is a term used to describe art created outside the mainstream art establishment, and is often applied to work created by psychiatric patients.

Roger Cardinal is widely known for his publications on self-taught art, in particular his pioneeing book Outsider Art of 1972. He has also written on French Surrealism and the early avant-garde, and is currently preparing a monograph on the mediumistic artist Madge Gill.

This talk will offer specimen works of Outsider Art originating in a variety of material contexts and involving a range of belief systems and mental perspectives. It will provide a general map of the field and will use illustrations from the work of some classic creators, as well as little-known recent artmakers. Professor Cardinal will seek to clarify what is at stake when we encounter such productions. What do we need to know about the author of a given work? Is a purely technical perspective adequate? Is there beauty to be savoured, or a whole new aesthetic to be established? Can we dwell within enigma? Outsider Art is rather special, and the viewer needs to adopt a sensitive stance toward the work and its maker.

Talk followed by questions and discussion.

This is an open meeting – all are welcome.  Wine and snacks provided.  Look forward to seeing you there!


Mug up beforehand:

Roger Cardinal

Outsider art

Speaker meeting: Dr James Whitehead “Creativity and madness – debunking the myth?” April 8 2014
March 27, 2014, 8:36 am
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Speaker meeting: Dr James Whitehead “Creativity and madness – debunking the myth?”

Tuesday 8th April 2014 6pm Institute of Psychiatry Robin Murray lecture theatre A

The idea that creativity is linked to mental illness has long been ‘one of the characteristic notions of our culture’, as the American literary critic Lionel Trilling wrote in 1945. It has informed, among many other things, popular representations and stereotypes of artistic or literary ‘genius’, whether as personality or as practice, a range of polemics about modern art, decadence, and the avant-garde, the formation of the idea of outsider art, and psychoanalytic readings of culture.

But when, how, and why did this idea become so popular and widespread? In this talk Dr Whitehead will discuss the ways in which it was popularized or stereotyped in the nineteenth century, with particular reference to the image of the ‘mad poet’, and examine the extent to which we might think of it as a romantic (or Romantic) myth.

James Whitehead is currently Wellcome Research Fellow in the English department at King’s College London, attached to the interdisciplinary Centre for the Humanities and Health. His first book examines nineteenth-century writing (including poetry, journalism, criticism, biographical writing, medical and psychiatric literature) which linked poetry and poets to madness. It is under review for publication with Oxford University Press as Madness and the Romantic Poet. Whitehead’s current research project moves from literary mythologies surrounding madness to the realities (and unrealities) of its experience, and examines the history of autobiographical writing about mental illness

We look forward to seeing you there!

This is an open meeting and all are welcome.  As usual there will be snacks and wine

Review: The man whose mind exploded
March 9, 2014, 7:41 pm
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The Man Whose Mind Exploded documentary film by Toby Amies

Review by Greg Neate

With a handheld camera and sometimes haphazard footage, this part gonzo documentary, part affectionate tribute sees first-time director, Toby Amies, investigate the final years of a determinedly individualistic yet vulnerable man, living alone on a Brighton council estate.

While Drako Oho Zarhazar’s colourful past contains enough source material for its own feature length film, it’s his cognitive impairment and declining health that draws the detective filmmaker into acting beyond being his champion. Breathlessness and neglected leg sores seduce Amies into becoming a carer for his friend, in as much as friendship’s possible with someone whose amnesia means he can’t recall who this frequent, camera-toting visitor is.

That’s not to say that ‘Drak’ lacks for an identity, as is evident from his tattooed and pierced physique that fills the screen. For this septuagenarian, “the world is my stage, so appearance is very important”; a personal assertion that would be widely endorsed by all who ever shared a bus journey with this Daliesque moustachioed, caped and croc wearing pensioner.

Still even his appearance only hints at what’s inside his cluttered, one bedroom flat where self-penned notes, old letters and eye-catching, male pornography dangle on countless strings creating a hectic, projected installation of his mind. With these hanging threads, Drak remains connected to his past, whilst Amies tries to see through them to understand how his film’s ‘star’ can live independently amongst increasing disorder but without apparent doubt.

“Trust. Absolute. Unconditional.” declares Drak, a motto which is permanently inked on his arm and which he adopted whilst recovering from his second life-threatening brain injury. It’s one of many repeated phrases and recollections that prevent him from becoming a stranger to his past, despite insisting that he lives “completely in the now”.

Interviews with his sister and nephew demonstrate that the former dancer and interior designer can relate meaningfully with those from his pre-injury past. His sister observes that despite being changed in character after his last coma, the ‘damaged’ Drak is more likeable, if still as irresponsible and hedonistic in spirit as ever.

As interesting as The Man Whose Mind Exploded makes as a case study, the film goes further by revealing the relationship between the two men, which tests each other’s tolerance. The ever stubborn subject faces down further do-gooder interference, the observer struggles with how far to intervene whilst faced with sheer bloody mindedness. This demonstration of exasperated but respectful caring for an individual’s autonomy and well-being is an unexpected outcome and it’s likely that no one would have been more surprised than this lifelong pleasure seeker.

However, with regards to whether either party is being exploited, the honours are often hilariously shared. “Do you think its fair for me to film stuff” asks Amies “when I know you’ve got brain damage?” “Yes” Drak replies instantly while plucking at his own nipples pleasurably, “because I enjoy being used!”

On the nearby pebbled, naturist beach, their mutual trust is most movingly displayed when filmmaker leaves his camera to appear cheekily in frame and assist his elder, disrobed friend with rising to his feet.

The Man Whose Mind Exploded is being screened at the British Film Institute, London as part of BFI Flare, the London LGBT Film Festival. Tickets are now on sale.  Mar 26 6:20 PM, Mar 29 6:40 PM, Mar 30 8:40 PM

Film website

Link to trailer

Link to facebook page

Rachel Cooper’s Psychiatry and Philosophy of Science discussion by Hopkins branch of Maudsley-Johns Hopkins Reading the Mind Book Group
January 30, 2014, 10:01 pm
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rachel cooper

By Nicole Leistikow

Discussion of Rachel Cooper’s Psychiatry and Philosophy of Science made for a cozy chat on a wintry December 5th evening, accompanied by pasta and pinot noir. Cooper’s straightforward prose and promptly terminated sentences came as a relief after the group had grappled with Thomas Szasz a few months before. It didn’t hurt that she takes on Szasz with refreshing clarity: “Szasz claims that mental illness is a myth, but he is wrong about this.” She goes on to explain that when the best explanation for a behavior is “sub-personal,” meaning biological and physiological in origin, then that behavior can be thought of as a symptom of a mental illness rather than a purposeful action. She was rather preaching to the choir in this setting, as all around the table, from attending to intern, had spent recent time on the inpatient wards and had difficulty viewing acute exacerbations of psychosis as anything intentional.

On the topic of psychosis, the discussion leader tried to interest the group in the question of whether psychiatrists should take LSD to better understand this phenomenon from the inside, an actual 1956 experiment that Cooper describes, but the chocolate truffles must have been too satisfying, because no one would make the argument that further chemical stimulation was needed. This did spur conversation on the role of empathy in treatment, and whether doctors who are simple prescribers need any warmth at all to do their job. The point was made that whether writing scripts for anti-psychotics or anti-hypertensives, physician’s acting with empathy can impact patient buy-in and adherence.

From there, the question turned to dualism and reductionism, and whether practitioners of the latter are less empathic, as people. Cooper seems to be trying to make peace between the various factions, concluding that “dualism is compatible with all neuroscientific findings” and that most reductionists can still agree that mental states are something more than brain states. The Churchlands’ views on eliminative materialism were discussed and a 2007 New Yorker was produced along with a delightful imagined conversation of Paul and Patricia Churchland after a long day of work attributing their mental states purely to neurotransmitter flux. The evening ended early with the call of toddlers for some and “tea” for others, as the group sallied forth into the snowy chill to take up their various domestic and social responsibilities, encouraged by the conclusion that if psychiatry is not purely a science, it is a practical discipline with enough rigor to be analyzed and made clearer by the likes of Rachel Cooper.


Speaker meeting: 18 February 2014 Victoria Tischler on ‘Art in the asylum’
January 30, 2014, 9:21 pm
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Art of Psychiatry speaker meeting as part of the Edward Adamson Festival

Dr Victoria Tischler on “Art in the asylum”

Tuesday 18 February 6pm Institute of Psychiatry Seminar room 1

Victoria Tischler is Associate Professor in Behavioural Sciences, School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham and curator of the recent exhibition “Art in the Asylum”. She joins us to talk about the exhibition which examined the evolution of artistic activity in British psychiatric institutions from the early 1800s to the 1970s and the reception of asylum art into mainstream artistic circles. This time period saw the shift from invasive treatments of mental disorders to more humane regimes in which creativity played a significant role.

This event is part of the Edward Adamson Festival, which is celebrating the life and work of Edward Adamson (1911-1996).  Adamson was a visionary pioneer of art as therapy and the founder of the Adamson Collection. The festival programme is available at

This is a public meeting and all are welcome.  Wine and snacks provided.


Link to short film about exhibition:
Interview with Victoria on the AoP blog:
Art at the Institute:

twitter: @artofpsychiatry

Information on finding the Institute of Psychiatry:

Details about the IoP are found on this page

Institute of Psychiatry,
King’s College London
16 De Crespigny Park
London SE5 8AF

The Denmark Hill Station serves Overground and national rail trains.  The nearest underground station is Elephant and Castle or Oval.

Seminar Room on is next to the main door when entering the De Crespigny Park entrance.

January 14 2014: Helpless Compassion’: From Samuel Beckett’s ‘Not I’ to the Francis Report
December 21, 2013, 3:09 pm
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Sam Beckett

Beckett participatory workshop – ‘Helpless Compassion’: From Samuel Beckett’s ‘Not I’ to the Francis Report

Seminar Room 1 Institute of Psychiatry Tuesday 14 January 2014 start 6pm (end approx 7.30pm)

**Please note that we can only accommodate a maximum of 25 participants at this workshop.  Please sign up by emailing***

Workshop facilitator: Jonathan Heron (IATL Teaching Fellow, University of Warwick / Artistic Director, Fail Better Productions.)
Discussion chair: Dr Elizabeth Barry (Associate Professor in English University of Warwick)

Please join us to participate in a workshop on Samuel Beckett’s Not I (1973) which will explore Beckett’s play in performance and reflect on the insights it provides into concepts of mental disorder, and doctor-patient interactions.

This workshop evolved from collaboration between scholars and clinicians during the Beckett and Brain Science project (Arts and Humanities Research Council, 2012).  It demonstrates activities adapted from the performing arts and has been used in medical education for consultant psychiatrists and multi-professional teams (Health Education Kent, Surrey and Sussex, 2013).

Following the workshop, Jonathan Heron will be interviewed by the AHRC Project Investigator, Dr Elizabeth Barry about their collaborative work in the Medical Humanities.

More information about previous workshops and the Beckett and Brain science project can be found at:

Interview with curator of ‘Art in the asylum’
July 16, 2013, 8:55 pm
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Art in the Asylum: creativity and the evolution of psychiatry is an upcoming exhibition at the Djanogly Art Gallery Lakeside Arts Centre Nottingham.  It runs Saturday 7 September – Sunday 3 November.

The exhibition is curated by Dr Victoria Tischler and Dr Esra Plumer.  Victoria Tischler has kindly agreed to be interviewed by AoP.


What is the inspiration behind the Art in the asylum exhibition?

I’ve been fascinated by art produced in psychiatric contexts since I was an undergrad working on a locked long-stay ward in Sydney, Australia. It was a strange place, an old- style asylum with a covered walkway from the river to the hospital. This was where they had originally transported the patients from boats which came up the river.  The ward  on which I was placed  was surrounded by a moat which no longer contained water but the patients still used to pace around the periphery.  There was no art therapy as such but as I was interested in art I would sit with people and encourage them to draw and paint to pass the time. Most were institutionalised, some were mute, others said very little and yet, rather than pace around, they would sit contentedly for lengthy periods creating the most cryptic and beautiful artwork with little guidance or instruction. I was struck by the intricate nature of the work, and how it expressed complex ideas, especially when people found it difficult to communicate verbally.

I’ve always been interested in art history and especially loved the work of the Surrealists and I learnt how art from the asylum had influenced their work, people like was an avid collector of patient art.

My current job includes a role as an arts lead in the Institute of Mental Health and I believe art has a powerful role to play in raising awareness of mental health issues.


Joseph Askew (date unknown) Stylized figure. Courtesy Dumfries Archive Centre

Can you name a few of the exhibition’s highlights?

Dr W.A.F. Browne‘s collection of patient art is the oldest of its kind and has never been seen before outside Scotland. Browne was medical superintendent at the Crichton Royal Institution in Dumfries from 1838-1857. His approach was radical in that he recommended that patients painted and drew as part of their treatment. He even employed an art instructor at the hospital in 1846.

Work from the Adamson collection, recently moved from the South London and Maudsley Trust to the Wellcome Library contains a vast array of pieces collected by Edward Adamson, the ‘grandfather of art therapy’ who was employed at the Netherne Hospital in Surrey in 1946.  The stone flints, collected by a patient in the grounds of the Hospital and then painstakingly hand painted are exceptional objects, especially one which strongly resembles a skull.

The work created by Mary Barnes at R.D. Laing’s therapeutic community Kingsley Hall in London in the 1960s is fascinating as she painted with her fingers, often depicting Laing and Dr Joe Berke (her responsible clinician) and ‘IT’, a spitting, writhing representation of her anger and fury. Berke is coming to speak at an event at the Broadway cinema in Nottingham on the 23rd October where we’re showing Luke Fowler‘s Turner shortlisted film about Laing ‘All divided selves’.

Also we’ve some exceptional work by many of the most famous outsider artists associated with influential continental psychiatrists such as the beautiful and complex work of Adolf Wölfli whose work was promoted by Dr Walter Morgenthaler from the Waldau clinic in Switzerland.



Mary Bishop (1959) Cri de coeur. Courtesy of Adamson collection trust


How did patient art come to be accepted outside of psychiatric institutions?

Several historical exhibitions displayed patient artwork alongside mainstream artists such as the British surrealists. This encouraged interest and acceptance of the work outside institutions. Also artists such as Jean Dubuffet avidly collected patient art work which increased interest and acceptance of the work in mainstream art circles.


Johann Hauser-Königin Elisabeth [Queen Elizabeth] ca.1969 Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne.© Privatstiftung-Künstler aus Gugging. Photo: Claude Bornand

Is the creation so art in mental health institutions as influential today as in the past?

Sadly the answer is probably not. With services being so stretched art is often seen as an add-on rather than integral to treatment. Yet, art has enormous therapeutic potential which I have witnessed first hand. It can be a route to recovery for both trained and untrained artists with some saying it helps create a new and positive identity away from the stigma associated with mental illness. The opportunity to exhibit and sell art can be hugely empowering for those with mental health problems. I have been involved with facilitating art-making in special hospital settings and for those individuals it is a powerful way to express their emotions and to communicate with others. There remains much interest  in art created by people with mental health problems outside institutions which is a topic we explore in the exhibition and which we’ll be talking about at several of the events running alongside the exhibition.



William Bartholomew (1861) Cake Month. Courtesy Dumfries Archive Centre