An Lanntair to showcase new exhibition challenging mental health stigma

  • Published on: 10th May 2021
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Reliquary, a new art project challenging mental health stigma, opens in An Lanntair’s Café Bar Gallery on Saturday May 22 as part of the nationwide Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival.

And An Lanntair is delighted to announce the exhibition during Mental Health Awareness Week, taking place from 10-16 May and focusing on the healing benefits of reconnecting with nature.

The unique Reliquary exhibition is the end result of a collaboration between artists Martyn McKenzie and Kate McAllan, with staff and participants from Penumbra, Western Isles Foyer, and Catch 23 in Stornoway.

Commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation and See Me, Scotland’s campaign against mental health stigma and discrimination, the Reliquary project saw participants work with Martyn and Kate to design hand-made wooden boxes who appearance and content reflects the lives of the people creating them.

Maeve Grindall, See Me social movement officer, said: “See Me is delighted to support Reliquary on the Isle of Lewis. Mental health stigma is reduced when people are able to share their experiences and speak openly about mental health. Being part of this art project allows participants to express very personal feelings in a safe environment.

“We hope the work created during this project will inspire others to speak more openly or consider things from a new perspective. We all have mental health and any of us could go through a period where we struggle, so it’s important that we all feel comfortable speaking about it.”

Reliquary artists Kate and Martyn have worked in partnership for seven years, curating exhibitions, running community art workshops, and delivering three public art commissions.

Describing their Reliquary project, Kate and Martyn said: “We are interested in the psychological possibilities of a box, its interaction with the idea of public and private, and its ability to protect its contents. We are also interested in its simplicity and beauty as an object.

“We will host a series of workshops where each participant will create their own hand-crafted ‘Reliquary’ box and fill it with artwork, writing and objects. This will culminate in an exhibition of all the participants’ work alongside further collaborative elements including a film and illustrated map.”

Penumbra Western Isles Support Manager, Christine Darby-Munro, said: “It’s important to challenge the all too often negative stereotypes associated with mental health, and encourage an environment where people feel able to talk openly about their mental and emotional wellbeing.

“We’re really excited about this project because it will reflect the unique personal accounts of the participants’ mental health journeys and is a really creative way of getting people to think about the idea that we all have mental health.”

Rebecca Mahony, Western Isles Foyer project leader, added: “We are excited to be included in this project and hope that via participation young people will have the opportunity to express themselves and how they feel.”

Reliquary is on show at An Lanntair from May 22 until June 26. The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival runs from May 3-23, with over 150 events nationwide, most of which will take place online or outdoors.