Exhibition Review: All at Sea

All at Sea
Institute of Psychiatry,
Until 1 December at Bethlem Royal Hospital, Beckenham, south London


Mark Drinkwater’s photography exhibition, which helped promote World Mental Health Day, raised the curtain on this year’s theme of suicide in more ways than one,
writes Lance Carver.

At first glance, the dozen or so large photographs of red curtains seem unremarkable. Each deep red image appears to be similar and has a domestic quality.

On closer inspection each one creates a different feeling and it suddenly becomes intriguing how hung up pieces of red fabric can represent such diverse perspectives. The various interpretations we can have of a single object becomes part of the fascination.

My favourite reminded me of waiting as a child for the cinema curtain to part – knowing that behind it would be hours of exciting entertainment. Another seemed more desolate, creating a universe that the curtains kept at bay. I wanted to search out the duvet that I imagined was in this world on my side of the curtains and crawl underneath it.

Juxtaposed with the photographs of curtains are images of large black rescue dogs in water. Drinkwater, who is also a community worker, explains their presence as a reference to Churchill’s famous euphemism for the depression (his “black dog”) he endured for most of his life.

The large dogs, shown with their handlers, are somehow all the more striking when surrounded by the red curtains.

The images in the exhibition do indeed, as intended, stimulate debate and help people reflect on mental health issues.

Lance Carver is service manager, mental health, adult services, Cardiff Council

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