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Portraits: Patients and Psychiatrists - Behind the scenes of the exhibition

Portraits; Patients and Psychiatrists By Gemma Anderson New show at the Bethlem Gallery 19 May – 18 June 2010

The new Bethlem Gallery exhibition opened this week. Portraits: Patients and Psychiatrists is a series of portraits of psychiatric patients and their doctors, developed through a Wellcome Trust Arts Award winning collaboration between artist Gemma Anderson and Forensic Psychiatrist Tim McInerny. Gemma provides fascinating information on the development of the portraits on her blog; gemmaanderson.wordpress.com

From August 2009 until January 2010, Gemma met with patients and their doctors, talking to them about their lives and what they saw as important to their own identity. She first conducted an informal interview with each person, for about an hour. Psychiatrists were asked questions such as “What inspired you to become a psychiatrist?” “What are your interests outside of your job?” “What do you have in common with your patient?” Patients’ questions included “How is your experience as a patient?” “Can you tell me about your life before you where a patient?” “What would you like to do when you are out of hospital?” “How would you describe your relationship with your psychiatrist?” After a break, Gemma would draw the individual directly onto copper plate, afterwards asking them to imagine what kind of images and ideas they would like to see in the portrait.

This process, resulting in prints in which each person is surrounded by these images and ideas, aimed to move away from traditional written or verbal clinical encounters between patient and doctor towards building an image of the individual formed by what they choose to disclose. For example, “Dr F has a wonderful relationship with her patient (Patient C). Her patient attributes her full recovery to meeting Dr F. When I asked what they had in common she replied “So much! I have just been luckier in my life experiences.” She is a lover of nature and finds peace when walking or cycling in the countryside or by the sea. She loves elephants, wild animals and birds.”

The exhibition is open from 20th May – 18th June: Wed, Thurs, Friday, 11am – 6pm; and Saturday 5th June, 11am – 6pm The Bethlem Gallery, Bethlem Royal Hospital, Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham, Kent BR3 3BX Nearest British Rail: Eden Park / East Croydon

Portraits: Patients and Psychiatrists will be touring in 2010; the Freud Museum (July-August); the Globe Theatre (Sept-Oct); ACME Project Space (Nov-Dec).