198 Contemporary Arts: Rationale to Madness (until 12th December 2013)
My initial impression of the exhibition was mixed; the promotional image is one that resembles solitude yet something of a proud individuality, which is certainly something the artist, Isha Blake, is trying to establish, not only through her work but within herself on a personal level. However the constant reinforcement of her private life, primarily in relation to her health, can be quite a frustrating aspect. I say this because, especially for women, removing the biographical details from an artist's work has been something that has been struggled with for many years. Of course, she is intentionally incorporating her experiences into the exhibition, in fact it is based chiefly and visually around her, but it begins to feel a little overwhelming. Perhaps this is because mental health is still such a taboo subject, but the inundating evidence will certainly earn different reactions. (Apologies for the rant, but the social portrayal of mental illness is something close to my heart, so I feel the need to raise some questions about how it should be delivered to the viewer)
So onto the content of the exhibition. The photographs, which Blake specialises in as an artist, showcase the artist as the central figure of 'Rationale To Madness'. They are effective in presenting the various problematic dimensions of having an illness such as Borderline Personality Disorder with the artist's use of several techniques. Some are contrived, studio-style shots, which still convey thoughts of solitude and isolation due to the use of a plain white background, showcasing her unique style, which seems to represent much more than fashion. Another method of presenting her themes and ideas, which really are organic and deeply rooted, is her photograph and diary entry. Although, as prior mentioned, the exhibition is based around herself and her own experiences of mental distress, the addition of the diary entry makes her plight more accessible to the viewer, showing the struggle to integrate into society and be part of the non-existent 'normality'.
The installation within 'Rationale To Madness' is a real interactive delve into the inner complications not only of mental health, but also the process of coming of age. As the two often crossover, it is a pleasant addition that Blake has included a number of wooden dolls, inscribed with phrases such as "why can't I find where I fit in?" The dolls could be seen to represent a childhood lost in the midst of mental illness, much like the diary entries of the other half of the exhibition. The physical difficulties the viewer experiences in moving around the installation signifies how mental illnesses are viewed by society, as without the 'proof', so to speak, like other disabilities, even family members can struggle to come to terms with and aid the situation. 'Rationale To Madness' is definitely worth a visit if you are looking to explore a more alternative stance on art. Using the perspective of a young woman with a history of mental health in the process of recovery, as opposed to looking retrospectively, is both enlightening and intriguing.