Art as therapy

A different type of exhibition recently ran run in South Dublin with work by Kildare artists from the National Learning Network and service users from RehabCare on display.

A different type of exhibition recently ran run in South Dublin with work by Kildare artists from the National Learning Network and service users from RehabCare on display.

The Outside In gallery, run by rugby commentator, Brent Pope, was a gallery and exhibition space established to celebrate outsider art - giving voice to artists who have experienced adversity and exclusion in their lives, and in doing so promote greater awareness and understanding.

Brent Pope is best known for his rugby punditry on RTÉ but he also devotes a lot of his time to working with charities. His brother is a physiatrist in New Zealand and following many conversations about methods to treat mental health issues and the powerful therapeutic methods of art, Brent decided to combine the two and offer a new type of exhibition, that is focused on helping the artist. “I’m not an art critic or an expert; I just have a passion for the talented people that supply it. Most of the art on display in the gallery is from artists who I believe use art for their own well-being, and in an effort to gain mental strength from the fact they are doing something positive with their lives.

Sandra Aherne of the National Learning Network said art is a key part of programmes in RehabCare and courses in National Learning Network. So when offered the chance by Brent Pope to display some of their work, many jumped at the chance.

Artwork for the exhibition, which is located in the Stillorgan Shopping Centre, was supplied by RehabCare in Casla, Ballinamore and Castlerea as well as National Learning Network in Maynooth and Roslyn Park College.

Students from Maynooth took a visit to the gallery in Stillorgan recently where they saw their work on display and got to chat with Brent.

For many, it was the first time they got to see their work hanging in public and they it was a proud moment for them. The students admired not only their own art, but all the other work on display. Meeting Brent and talking about art and rugby with him was also a great high point in the visit and the rugby commentator was delighted to meet the Maynooth artists.

There is a diverse range of styles on display in the exhibition with a story behind each painting.

Celbridge artist, Des Kelly, a student on the Choices course in Maynooth, was delighted to see his work on display, on a recent visit to the gallery. “I used to draw a bit when I was younger but when life got busy I stopped. I suffer from mental health issues and for the last few months I’ve been trying to get my life back on track which for me involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy and doing the Choices course. Getting back into art has allowed me to express myself in a different way and I find it really therapeutic as it gives me space. Being part of the exhibition has really lifted everyone and it’s great to get the opportunity to show off our work.”

Sandra Ahern, Instructor, Choices, National Learning Network in Maynooth accompanied her students on their visit to the gallery described it as “fantastic” and thanked Brent Pope for his role. See www.outsideartgallery.com

- Henry Bauress