AHSW's Director, Trustees, and Members reflect on various aspects of arts, health and wellbeing.

Absentee Artist

Max Frances shares her reflections on remotely contributing to the 2020 Spring School

Writing and drawing thoughts and research on Mental Illness and Mental Health was a solitary; largely town-based experience, rather different from those who actually attended. My usual manner of committing art involves using a sketchbook for research, reflection and letting the most appealing ideas develop. My book for the spring school was a similar undertaking, with the major difference being the possibility of it actually being read (and getting my mother to proof read rather than stand in for an audience!).

Book and Images by Max Frances

It was a very different experience to write for people I hadn’t seen before and knew nothing about beyond what was on the call out. I was aware that there would be at least two other vulnerable people, and some people from medical backgrounds. How to balance a duty to be honest with a need to avoid causing unnecessary pain? How to express contentious, critical and even accusatory views without melodrama and only provoke the kind of low-level offense that makes people return to the subject and consider it in other lights? I wanted the anger, the damage, the fear and paranoia that we who are used as political footballs experience to be clear; while not undermining my credibility by coming across as delusional or hatred fuelled. It was also vital to include hope, humour, and the developing sense of myself as a valid individual which making art and a diagnosis of autism have given me.

I’m not ‘well’, perhaps I never will be but I can make a positive contribution in various ways; which combats the constant feeling that a person’s right to exist is dependent upon their economic viability.

Book by Max Frances

Making meaning: 1) Mental illness (and possibly autism) have made me committed to trying to improve societies attitudes to mental illness; clear in my ethics and conscientious, so long as I’m aware of the issues.

2) Mental illness makes some things, that others might consider routine, ordeals for me. Finishing the book in good time wasn’t a problem; getting the courage together to post it, when it was disorganised, more or less unsolicited and rather more than might be usable was a real struggle, calling for determination, imaginary emotional support rats and gritted teeth (all of which I eventually brought to bear).

PS If I’d been able to attend, I’d have brought my portable paint box, which I treated myself to not long after joining an art class as part of my concerted attempt at recovery (ongoing), about 18 years ago.



Max Frances
May 2020

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