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Unquiet Minds

Updated: May 22

Last weekend OCA students joined tutor Diana Ali for a study event in Nottingham covering a whopping 16,995 steps.

Unquiet Minds is a collaborative exhibition of painting and photography which aims to open conversations about mental health and challenge preconceptions about this often uneasy subject.

Unquiet Minds sees three Midlands based OCA degree students -Allan O' Neill, Catherine Levey and Catherine D'Arcy-Saunders - investigate their emotional response to their own and other people’s mental health stories. Each has a very different approach, yet the fundamental message is about reframing how we look at mental health experiences.

Open until 20 May at Surface Gallery, Nottingham.

Find out more about the artists:

Catherine Levey -

Catherine D’Arcy-Saunders -

Allan O' Neill -

The exhibition has coincided with Mental Health Awareness Week and two of the artists share some thoughts about their work, their experience and raising awareness,

First up Catherine Levey:

How has the exhibition and your practice helped you confront any mental health issues?

I've been looking at the mental health stories of myself and others which are available as public biographies. Painting in thin layers has helped me reflect in between with my response to their mental health stories. As a GP I've had periods of feeling burnt out, with coping with the pandemic, and then feeling I couldn't do enough for patients due to rising demand and waiting times. Art has helped me be creative and mindful.

You have all come from different experiences with mental health, from a personal perspective to a professional occupation. What in particular has been articulated in your work through these experiences?

Now I work as a GP mainly in the field of mental health and my final year research has helped me to understand mental health symptoms much better which has obviously crossed over into my medical work.

It has helped me reframe people's stories in a way medical textbooks failed to do. In particular I've looked at the artwork of an artist who lived with schizophrenia called Bryan Charnley and his work about his inner world was particularly moving for me. Next week I'm holding a panel discussion where I'll talk about this and research I did to see if his work could move others too. I'm hoping medical students will attend, but it's open to the public too as I still think we need to break down barriers and challenge stigma.

What is an ‘unquiet mind’ to you?

This title seemed very apt because it describes a range of thoughts from the simply curious trying to solve a problem to being outright thought disordered. It all can bring its own particular distress. At our recent exhibition we signposted at the door there were mental health issues discussed inside in case people might feel triggered. In the exhibition we signposted mental health help. We hope by holding an artist talk we can get conversations about mental health out there. The opening night was well attended and people seemed very engaged, so there seems to be an appetite to discuss this subject which is positive because as a GP I still find people are reluctant to ask for help sometimes.

And Allan O' Neill shares his reflections;

Being involved in the Unquiet Minds Exhibition has definitely extended the ways in which I use my creative practice to help process my own neurodiversity. I use the physical making of the work as a form of therapy in its own right. But then having the opportunity to share and exchange stories with others by personally connecting through the exhibition and the OCA study day, this has been such a rich and positive experience. I’ve found the whole experience to be extremely cathartic which is something I did not necessarily expect beforehand, and this experience has really helped in my own personal journey of acceptance.

I must thank Catherine Levey who has been truly inspirational in leading and curating this show, Catherine D’Arcy-Saunders who has helped me to reflect on my work in whole new ways. I would also like to thank OCA tutor Diana Ali - a great host for our study day - and the OCA Student Association for funding the study event. In particular, I would like to thank Joanne Mulvihill-Allen who works tirelessly to organise a whole programme of artistic and educational events for students, which promote Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) across the entire spectrum including Mental Health. I have gained so much support and knowledge from working with Joanne and through being an active participant in the EDI student group. I would also like to thank the OCA for their grant support and sponsorship which went towards making this show happen. The show is great and runs until Saturday 20th so if you’re in Nottingham for whatever reason please take a visit!

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