Lifestyle review: A pathway of pictures

Lauren Shear
The Pathway
Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital
Camberwell, London

Star rating: 4/5

Until 11 October

Every day since February 2004, artist Lauren Shear, a former patient at the Maudsley hospital in south London, has drawn a self-portrait with her eyes closed, writes Mark Drinkwater.

Currently, more than 300 of Shear’s brightly coloured self-portraits are hung along the otherwise austere corridors at the south London hospital.

But for this exhibition, Shear has scanned the images and digitally manipulated them by adding colour using Photoshop, and more specifically the software’s “magic wand” feature that enables artists to flood sections of drawings with colours.

On an aesthetic level, the colourful images in their bright frames bring the corridor to life.

It works particularly well with Shear’s pictures, with their fluid and flowing lines. Even with her eyes closed, Shear is able to conjure up fascinating images. As a viewer, I felt compelled to ponder on the mental state of the artist, and my own state for that matter.

Devoid of visual stimuli in the process of doing the closed eye drawings, there’s the suggestion that her work is perhaps  influenced more so than usual by her subconscious.

The exhibition is a marvellous collection of works that work on so many levels. As individual portraits they’re fascinating.

Together they brighten up the dull hospital environment. And the setting illustrates that great art doesn’t have to be exhibited in a conventional gallery.

Finally, unlike most exhibitions, the pictures are more than reasonably priced at £35, with proceeds going to the mental health charity Samaritans.

Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in Southwark, south London.

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