This October the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival (SMHAFF) has returned for its eighth year, bringing with it, once again, an eclectic range of thought-provoking art exhibitions. The festival seeks to raise awareness for its cause, while championing the work of artists who have experienced mental health issues. The art that forms the festival is therefore a compelling exploration of the link between the mind and creativity, a connection familiar and important to all. The theme of this year’s SMHAFF is ‘power’, which is poignant on many levels. This at once suggests the power of art to provoke change, and the work of the festival to empower those who have faced mental health difficulties.
The Gallery on the Corner has joined with SMHAFF this year for their annual Postcards From… exhibition. The Gallery, part of Autism Ventures Scotland, acts as both a commercial space and studio for artists with physical or mental health conditions. Like the festival, the gallery celebrates ‘art as support’. For this particular exhibition, the gallery sent postcards to over two hundred artists, inviting them to create a small piece reflecting on mental health and this year’s theme, while giving the artists an opportunity to take part in a national festival.
The gallery is small, but light and friendly, unlike so many New Town organisations. The titular postcards jostle for attention on several walls, a mass of colour and material. This is perhaps the most striking element of the compact exhibition. The tiny postcards offer a far larger scope of artistic creation than some of Edinburgh’s biggest art institutions. Collage, oil painting and sketches are displayed alongside three-dimensional works, including glittery tree bark; the exhibition is a celebration of art in its many forms.
The works are also surprisingly diverse in mood, considering the serious intentions of the festival. Donald Kerr’s textural field of flowers is decorated with a single quote: ‘Somewhere between silence and a scream, I hear her voice: “It’s only a dream”’; it is a sobering depiction of living with mental health issues.
Elsewhere, Bleu Hope’s newspaper collage ‘Think about your eyes’ explores prejudice. Alongside these however, are light-hearted cartoons and a recreation of Raeburn’s ‘The Skating Minister’. Every fresh look at the display offers something new. All postcards are also on sale, so if you need some original decoration for your flat, this is your chance to support the positive work the gallery does.
Overall, Postcards From… is a small but undoubtedly needed and meaningful exhibition, well worth a visit if you find yourself in the New Town. The work of this gallery and of SMHAFF to change perceptions of mental illness is vitally important and it requires engagement and support to have the impact it deserves.