Mental illness and its ‘many faces’ are shown in an innovative portraiture exhibition by contemporary artist Andrea Tyrimos. A series of oil paintings, coupled with audio portraits of celebrities and non-celebrities alike, will be on show at London’s 5th Base Gallery, London E1, from 14th – 19th October 2016 to coincide with World Mental Health Awareness Day this month.

Bipolar Picasso; as the name suggests, (Picasso was reported to have been Bipolar), connects mental illness and art. Yet this show is not specific to Bipolar disorder. A range of mental health illnesses have been explored via the physical medium of paint and creative use of audio; from the depths of depression, cravings of addiction and fear of anxiety, to the extreme highs and lows of Bipolar, and delusions of Schizophrenia.

As you enter the exhibition you will be confronted with intimate, illuminated oil paintings of both celebrities and members of the public. Alongside each portrait is an accompanying audio piece, revealing the spoken words and innermost thoughts of the sitter. The visitor becomes fully immersed in a sensory exploration of the mind.

A graduate from the prestigious Central St Martins, Andrea pushes the boundaries of portraiture, uniquely combining both visual and audio elements, in an attempt to give this invisible illness not only visibility, but also presence.

The premise is that these people generally lack a common ground with each other, save for the fact that they are all united by their experiences with mental illness, demonstrating the vast cross-section of people that are affected.

A project fuelled by personal experience; in addition to working with young adults in crisis, the artist has several people close to her with mental health issues, who feel they are unable to be open for fear of being judged by society.

Andrea Tyrimos says: “Portraiture can be thought of as simply representing a likeness, but I try to use the paint to marry external appearance to inner self, to try to capture the intangible mental state of each sitter. The media tends only to shed light on mental illness when it concerns a celebrity, but what about the vast numbers of ordinary people who also experience mental health issues?”

This is why members of the public are being painted alongside celebrities and people in the media spotlight. Andrea is utilising society’s obsession with celebrities to open the door to another perspective and make them view others in the same light. Celebrities and well-known personalities from the worlds of politics, sports and media have opened up for the purpose of ‘Bipolar Picasso’, giving intimate accounts of their mental health experiences, as well as sitting for the artist. Former World Boxing champion Ricky Hatton , singer Kerry Katona , former premiership footballer turned pro boxer Leon McKenzie ,  Tony Blair’s former strategist Alastair Campbell , TV personality and presenter Gail Porter , famous birdwatcher and TV presenter Bill Oddie , and author and Guardian journalist Mark Rice-Oxley are some of the names involved.

The exhibition is open daily from 12 noon till 7pm with the artist painting live.


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