Art of Psychiatry Society

Enda Walsh meeting podcast
August 12, 2013, 7:05 pm
Filed under: Interviews, Theatre




For those of you who missed our Enda Walsh meeting, here’s the podcast!

Part 1 is Enda Walsh interviewed, Part 2 is the Q&A

Maria Walsh author of ‘Art and Psychoanalysis’ speaker meeting 24 September
August 9, 2013, 10:34 am
Filed under: Art

book cover

Unfortunately this event is cancelled but will be rescheduled for later in the year.

Our next event is David O’Flynn speaking about the Adamson Collection 22 October


Tuesday 24 September 2013 6pm Institute of Psychiatry

Speaker meeting: Maria Walsh talks about her book Art and Psychoanalysis

In Art and Psychoanalysis Maria Walsh investigates how psychoanalysis has been an invaluable resource for artists, art critics and historians throughout the twentieth century.  Artists as varied as Max Ernst, Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman and Marina Abramovic can be examined with the benefit of psychoanalytic thinking, and contemporary critics use psychoanalytic concepts as tools to understand how meaning operates.    Walsh’s argument is that psychoanalysis, like art, is a cultural discourse about the mind in which the authority of discourse itself can be undermined, provoking ambiguity and uncertainty and destabilising identity.

This is a public meeting, all are welcome.

Enda Walsh in conversation with Femi Oyebode
July 27, 2013, 6:49 pm
Filed under: Theatre

Playwright Enda Walsh joined us for meeting at the Institute of Psychiatry on 24 July 2013.  Here he talks to Prof Femi Oyebode about psychiatry, his work and influences.

Our YouTube channel

Interview with curator of ‘Art in the asylum’
July 16, 2013, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


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


Playwright Enda Walsh in conversation with Femi Oyebode 24 July 2013 Institute of Psychiatry
July 11, 2013, 8:59 pm
Filed under: Film, Theatre

Scene from ‘The Walworth Farce’

Wednesday 24 July 6pm Robin Murray Lecture Theatre Institute of Psychiatry

Playwright Enda Walsh in conversation with Prof Femi Oyebode

We are very pleased to announce that Enda Walsh, Irish dramatist and screenwriter, will be joining us at our upcoming Art of Psychiatry Society meeting. Walsh made his name with Disco Pigs (2001), a drama about two dysfunctional teenagers caught up in an intense and ultimately violent relationship. He has written seventeen stage plays in total, including The Walworth Farce (2006), in which disturbed characters appear trapped inside a menacing scenario of their own making. His widely-acclaimed 1999 play Misterman is perhaps of most interest to psychiatrists.  It was staged last year at The National Theatre following a sell-out run in New York. A New York Times review wrote “a seductive and terrifying portrait of a luminous madness”.

Walsh wrote the acclaimed film Hunger (directed by Steve McQueen) about the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands and also the hit musical Once, which is currently running in the West End after sweeping the board at the prestigious TONY awards, winning 8 categories.

Enda Walsh is in conversation with Femi Oyebode. Femi Oyebode is Professor of Psychiatry and Head of Department, University of Birmingham. He recently published “Madness at the Theatre

We’ve had a really successful year this year at the AoP society and we hope you’ll join us for this amazing guest. By way of celebration, we’ll be providing plenty of food and wine. Please do join us.  Meeting open to all.

Picture credit

Jonathan Heron on Sarah Kane
July 4, 2013, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Theatre

AoP’s Carol Kan interviews Jonathan Heron following our 26 June meeting on Sarah Kane.  Jonathan is the artistic director, Fail Better Productions and teaching fellow at the University of Warwick.

New exhibition – Art in the Asylum: creativity and the evolution of psychiatry
July 4, 2013, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Art, Exhibitions


(click on image for full size)

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.  Also running alongside is the video installation MARAT SADE BOHNICE: Althea Thauberger.

From the exhibition’s organisers:

Art in the Asylum presents the first examination of the evolution of artistic activity in British psychiatric institutions from the early 1800s to the 1970s. With over 100 loans from national and international archives, the exhibition traces the historical shift from invasive treatments of mental disorders to a more humane regime in which creativity played a significant role.

Highlighting key institutions and influential figures in the history of British mental healthcare, the exhibition includes the earliest use of creativity in the Crichton Royal Institution in Dumfries under the direction of Dr. W. A. F. Browne; the pioneering work of Edward Adamson at the Netherne Hospital in Surrey; and the free expression of residents at Kingsley Hall in London, a therapeutic community run by Dr. R. D. Laing. Works by Richard Dadd and Louis Wain represent some of the most well-known patient art associated with the Bethlem Royal Hospital, or ‘Bedlam’.

The exhibition also acknowledges the strong influence of continental psychiatry on British practice with the inclusion of artworks by patients under the care of notable psychiatrists such as Walter Morgenthaler, Hans Prinzhorn and Leo Navratil; they include Adolf Wölfli, Johann Hauser and August Walla represented in the exhibition by important loans from the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne established by Jean Dubuffet.

Uncovering fascinating stories, this historical overview provides insight to the diagnostic and therapeutic use of patient artwork, its influence on the development of humane psychiatric practice, and its wider recognition by artists associated with Art Brut and so-called Outsider Art.

Running concurrently with Art in the Asylum is a new video installation by Canadian artist Althea Thauberger, featuring a filmed performance of Peter Weiss’ 1963 play Marat/Sade at the Bohnice Psychiatric Hospital, Prague, in 2012.

Marat/Sade imagines the infamous Marquis de Sade as author and director of a play about the bloody assassination of Jean-Paul Marat while the former was interned in the Charenton asylum in 1808. A time of great institutional reform, this period saw the beginnings of the reformation of the treatment of mental illness from punishment to therapy. In the 1963 play, the inmates of the asylum enact the drama, and are always partly themselves, as patients, and partly in historical character.

While the original play is set in the bathhouse of Charenton, Thauberger’s filmed production is performed to an audience of staff and patients in another post-revolutionary institution: Bohnice, the largest psychiatric clinic in the Czech Republic.

Characteristic of her collaborative projects with specific social groups or communities, Thauberger’s film includes interviews with psychiatric staff and patients at Bohnice giving the participants a voice and raising questions about institutionalization, power and self-determination.


Accompany the exhibition and are free!

Friday 6 September 6.30-7.30pm

Dr. Esra Plumer and Dr. Victoria Tischler on the historic use of art in mental health institutions and the interplay between creativity and madness, introducing some of the spaces, places and key figures in the fascinating history of crossover between visual art and mental health care.

Saturday 7 September

Creativity and the evolution of psychiatry

Wednesday 11 September 6-8pm

Edward Adamson’s life and work: creativity and the evolution of art as therapy
Dr. Susan Hogan (University of Derby, author of Healing Arts: The History of Art Therapy 2001) with contributions from John Timlin (Adamson Collection) and Dr. David O’Flynn  (Consultant Psychiatrist & Chair of the Adamson Collection). The groundbreaking work of the ‘grandfather of art therapy’ Edward Adamson is considered alongside associations between therapy and Surrealism.

Wednesday 18 September 6.30-7.30pm

A hidden gem: Dr. W. A. F. Browne’s collection of patient art at Crichton Royal Institution, Dumfries
Dr. Maureen Park (University of Glasgow, author of Art in Madness 2011) discusses the pioneering work of Dr. Browne and his collection of patient art, the oldest surviving collection of asylum art in the world.

Wednesday 2 October 6-8pm

Ancient and modern mental healthcare
Jules Evans (author of the bestselling Philosophy for Life: and other Dangerous Situations 2012) with Dr. Ben Di Mambro (Consultant Psychiatrist) and Dr. Arun Chopra (Consultant Psychiatrist) From ancient philosophy to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), recent controversies in psychiatric diagnostics and the launch of the DSM-V, the speakers discuss how old and new approaches might interact in the provision of mental health care today.

Wednesday 16 October 6.30-8.30pm

Looking into art from the asylum: Prof. Roger Cardinal (author of the seminal text Outsider Art 1972); and Richard Dadd and Asylum Art of the 19th century: Dr. Nick Tromans, Curator, Watts Gallery, Surrey.

Artists whose approaches diverge radically from average expectation and from officially sanctioned approaches and styles are discussed alongside Richard Dadd, one of the best- known British asylum artists

Wednesday 30 October 6.30pm-7.30pm

Marat/Sade and the ‘theatre of cruelty’
Dr. Gordon Ramsay and Dr. James Moran (English Dept. University of Nottingham) consider Peter Brook’s 1964 production of Peter Weiss’s play Marat/Sade in the context of Antonin Artaud’s ‘theatre of cruelty’

Slides from “How Well Does Freud’s Work Stand the Test of Time?” – Allen Frances Freud Museum 10 June 2013
June 27, 2013, 9:15 pm
Filed under: Other


On June 10 2013 psychiatrist Allen Frances delivered the 2013 Freud memorial lecture.

From the Freud museum website:

Allen Frances MD was the Chair of the Task Force that prepared the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV), often called the bible of the American psychiatric profession. However, he has been a vocal critic of the new DSM V, condemning what he calls its diagnostic hyperinflation. His new book, Saving Normal, is part mea culpa, part j‘accuse, and part cri de coeur. It explores why psychiatry has always been subject to so many fads, while deploring the medicalization of everyday human experience and the excessive use of psychiatric medicine.

In the prestigious Freud Memorial Lecture, Dr Frances argues that the current under-estimation of Freud is in part the price for his having been overestimated during his lifetime. ‘It is unwise to worship Freud or the DSM as bibles – but equally unwise not to know them,’ he says. His lecture will draw attention to which of Freud’s contributions he thinks still relevant, which quaint historical artefacts.

A graduate of the Columbia University Psychoanalytic Center, where he taught the Freud course for ten years, Allen Francis is now Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University, where previously he was Chair.

Prof Frances has kindly given us permission to make the slides from his presentation available to readers of this blog.  They can be downloaded via this link:

Freud lecture slides

A number of us attended the talk and we hope to post some thoughts here in due course.  In the meantime, please leave any thoughts or reactions as comments.

American Asylums: Moral Architecture of the 19th Century
June 14, 2013, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Photography

Hudson State Hospital

[click on the picture to see it in full]

Jeremy Harris is a New York based commercial and fine art photographer.  His ongoing project American Asylums: Moral Architecture of the 19th Century documents abandoned American asylums.

“When I started the project, I was originally drawn to the architecture and photographing the architecture,” he says in a Mother Jones interview. “But then as I visited more and more sites …  it was also sort of to document the spaces before they’re gone”

The grand scale of the buildings is evident from many of the shots.    “The original designers of the buildings wanted them to be therapeutic for the people who lived in them” says Harris.  “That’s why they built massive hallways, [with] lots of light, [and] pleasant colours”.  One picture shows a huge abandoned theatre – a reminder that these were total institutions cut off from the wider community.


[click on the picture to see it in full]

Harris finds numerous patient artifacts in the places he visits.  Many are anonymous and appear carelessly abandoned; wheelchairs sit idle in corridors and baths and beds remain where they were used.  But he finds personal effects too and one room has what look like patient files strewn around.

No doubt the asylums are eerie to visit but they’re also evocative places.  “When I come across a particular patient room … one of the things I like to do it to sit in the room and to imagine what it was to be patient in that room and not be able to leave” says Harris.


[click on the picture to see it in full]



[click on the picture to see it in full]


Guardian newspaper slideshow June 3 2013

Jeremy Harris blog post: Athens state hospital


Thanks to Jeremy Harris for permission to use his photographs for this posting.  All the above photographs are (c) Jeremy Harris

Sarah Kane 26 June 2013
June 11, 2013, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Theatre


26 June 2013 6pm Seminar Room 1 Institute of Psychiatry London

Sarah Kane was an English playwright who published five plays. Her plays deal with themes of redemptive love, sexual desire, pain, physical and psychological suffering, and death. Her last play “4:48 psychosis” is suggest to be about the psychotic mind.

Kane struggled with severe depression for many years and was twice voluntarily admitted to the Maudsley.  In 1999 she committed suicide King’s College Hospital.


Graham Saunders is a reader in theatre studies in Reading University, and author of “About Kane: the author and her work” (Amazon link:

Jonathan Heron is the Artistic Director, Fail Better Productions and Teaching Fellow at the University of Warwick.


Links: Sarah Kane Wikipedia page

Independent obituary 23 February 1999