Mel O’Dea is one of 139 artists showcasing work in the exhibition which accepts works from anyone using the mental-health services throughout Cork.
Running since 1996, the project encourages creative activity. It helps raise the profile of artists and highlights the importance of art both in recovering from mental-health difficulties and as a positive coping strategy through difficult times.
“Art offers great comfort and joy,” says Martina Ryan, education officer with Cork Mental Health Foundation.
She recalls a psychologist identifying hope and creativity as the twin elements in recovery from mental difficulties.
“This exhibition displays both,” she says. “Many of the exhibitors find hope in their creativity. That’s what it symbolises. They find a voice to share their story.”
Originally from London but now based in Mallow, Ms O’Dea has been a user of the mental health services since 2000. She finds art enormously therapeutic.
“It enables me to be creative and to find another space to be in,” says Ms O’Dea.
“It’s a way of leaving behind all the problems and complexities of life, to do something totally for the love of it rather than from any compulsion.”
Ms O’Dea’s paintings are titled Portrait of Venice One and Two.
“They’re very expressionistic, colourful, vibrant paintings,” she says.
“I travel abroad a bit and I take photos of where I am. I’m absolutely attracted to the colours I found in Venice and to the way they work together. That’s really what excited me.”
Her paintings generally have an architectural background and a portrait in the foreground. “I get ideas for portraits from hairdressing magazines,” she says.
Artists have submitted paintings from day-centres and resource centres across Cork. Titles include Standing in Motion, I Want Life, and Mother’s Love.
“We have art from Fermoy, Kanturk, West Cork and Bantry, Carrigaline, Cork City, and Mallow,” Ms Ryan says.
Cork Lord Mayor Mary Shields will officially open the exhibition, which begins at 2pm on Thursday, will remain at Cork Airport for six weeks before moving to the canteen area of CUH on April 16.
After a further six weeks, it will transfer to St Stephen’s Hospital, Glanmire, on May 28 until the closing ceremony in August.