Creativity and mental health have a long and intertwined history. From the artists who transformed their mental suffering into masterpieces, to the viewers whose lives have been forever changed by art, visual expression will always play an essential role in overcoming mental health issues.
In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week, we look at a selection of artworks that will challenge your perceptions. Whether you are looking for some inspiration or need your spirits raised, these are the perfect artworks for you.
Known for his fusion of pop culture, consumerism and art, KAWS creates collectible toys, prints and sculptures that often blend his own distinctive style with street art and familiar visual elements. A playful reimagination of the iconic cartoon character, KAWSBOB fuses the recognisable children’s personality with KAWS’ trademark cross-eyes. Light-hearted, humorous and rendered in a vivid palette of primary colours, KAWSBOB is uplifting and nostalgic.
Originally created in 2020 and sold in aid of COVID-19 relief funds, Extraordinary People was an instant hit. Realising that the message was universal beyond the NHS heroes of the pandemic, The Connor Brothers decided to create a new edition of the print. Emblazoned with the quotation “there are no extraordinary people, there are only ordinary people who do extraordinary things”, the Connor Brothers’ print is an artwork that ignites hope,reminding us that everyone has an equal capability to do incredible things.
Fresh, bold, dynamic; Okoro’s work has the ability to lift any viewer’s mood. Rendered in vivid acrylic paint and embellished with real metal spikes, Roshi is as energetic as it is captivating. Curving backwards with outstretched arms, the central figure commands attention. The excess material from her sweeping dress creates an overwhelming centrifugal force that draws the viewer in closer, absorbing us in her vibrant world.
One of the most celebrated photographers of the 1960s, Terry O’Neill captured era defining pictures of celebrities for more than five decades. Elton John, Dodgers Stadium depicts the historic concert by the British singer at the Los Angeles baseball stadium. With the artist throwing his head back mid-song, the photograph effortlessly embodies the electric atmosphere of Elton John’s concert as a monumental audience of 110,000 people watches on. Perfectly capturing the germinal musical moment, the photograph is awe-inspiring in its magnitude and infectious energy.
Renowned for his odd and endearing humour, a Shrigley print can always make you smile. Often philosophical, sometimes pertinent but always visually striking, Shrigley’s work has an inexplicable ability to reassure the viewer. Utilising the familiar and perfect in its simplicity, the artist’s work reminds us of the beauty and humour in our imperfections, reassuring us that everything will be fine. Or in the words of Shrigley himself, ‘It’s OK’.
Surrealist and absurd, light-hearted and humorous, Joseph Klibansky’s sculptures are as uplifting as they are charming. Known for his highly reflective bronze sculptures, often posed in comical ways or wearing party hats, Klibansky has captured the hearts of viewers from across the globe. From the sandy beaches of Dubai to the snow-capped mountains of Switzerland, Klibansky’s artwork brings joy wherever it is displayed.
Originally writing the words in reference to caring for people with dementia, and specifically his father, Harland Miller’s work Who Cares Wins took on new meaning during the Covid pandemic. Reportedly describing the work as acting like ‘a 5 second pep talk’, Miller’s screen print is a fantastic reminder that although sometimes it may be tough, empathy and compassion will triumph.
Stunning in its simplicity, Sleeping Baby Yellow is typical of anonymous graffiti artist, STIK’s work. Featuring a small stick figure curled up, peacefully asleep, the work is as charming as it is unassuming. With a vivid yet pared back palette, characteristic of the graffiti artist’s oeuvre, Sleeping Baby Yellow is eye-catching in its vibrancy and uplifting in its colour scheme.
Considered one of the world’s most empathetic species, love and compassion is at the heart of elephant communities. Known for their altruistic behaviour and fierce protection of their young, elephants have an emotional range to match their majestic size. The Walk of Life depicts a heart-warming moment between mother and child; a universal image that transcends species in its representation of love and loyalty.
First displayed as a painting in Barely Legal, Banksy’s 2006 breakout exhibition in Los Angeles, Grannies was first released as a limited edition screen print in 2007. Rendered in baby pink and black and white, the humorous print depicts two elderly women knitting jumpers emblazoned with anti-establishment slogans. There is a comical juxtaposition between the rebellious message and the seemingly inane act of knitting, reminding the viewer to never underestimate anyone.