If you only see the illness, you miss the person. That’s the premise for Who Cares? a collaboration between the Whitworth Art Gallery and its NHS neighbours over the road. A brand new therapeutic space is open for all to view, but bookable most of the week for people and groups dealing with mental health issues.
With Who Cares? visitors are looking at – sometimes confronted with - people, in close-up. Whether it’s the coldly arms-length Lucien Freud self-portrait Man’s Head (1962) or Lucy Burscough’s intimate and arresting Beth, Hidden (2011) new exhibition space makes you think about who those people are and perhaps to challenge who you are. It’s a starting point for discussions about mental health, how it affects the individual and how they and others view them. It’s an extension of the reflection and contemplative sanctuary already offered by the Whitworth’s own surprisingly tranquil setting between an incredibly busy road and a park.
Burscough, artist-in-residence at Galaxy House (where Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital cares for children and young people with mental health problems) to inform and create work for ‘Who Cares?’ Her experiences with, and the generosity of, those young people have come together in magnified close portraits. With chipped nail varnish and winged eye liner providing a base of realism, the power in each piece comes from the eyes. Using a jigsaw effect diptych in Clarissa/Clarrisa, Inverse (2011) Burscough frames Clarissa’s eyes in separate pieces of the jigsaw, mirroring where they should be in the frame of her face. You can piece the whole together, mentally, nothing is missing - but actually seeing the whole face, the whole person, is not quite so simple.
Also exhibiting is Kevin Dalton-Johnson, whose collection of sculpted busts explore dislocation and a sense of connection to his African ancestors. Framed in small, colourful, solo box shelves within the exhibition space the high emotion of each piece is concentrated. The upturned, mournful white face Tear of a Clown (2009) with its striking black tear and full round cheeks is crying out for comfort.
Who Cares? at the Whitworth Art Gallery 26 March – 21 June.