As the wall text of this exhibition acknowledges, the graffiti practiced on the streets of Bath and Bristol by Dale vN Marshall preceded his sectioning in the Cornwall County Asylum in 1999, but the event exerts a continuing resonance on his practice of art. His spray-paint work on the walls of public spaces transferred to private galleries and international museums as a gallery artist, but maintains its still-street aesthetic. In this exhibition at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Marshall has drawn on his own experiences as a young person in the mental health system to produce the paintings, as well as on a series of conversations and workshops with young people in Edinburgh dealing with ADHD, autism and circumstantial trauma facilitated by drama programs and community organisations.
These young people face immense difficulties just being young now, as the social contract of ever increasing living standards promised by previous generations frays around the edges. Diagnoses of mental ill health amongst young people have skyrocketed, and when one in ten young people between five and sixteen years are struggling, it is worth acknowledging that it might also be due to the pressures of life that impinge on their development. The world intrudes on the stability of those starting to establish themselves. These dense bands of highlighter colours that drip and trail from the canvases on display in Marshall’s work include harshly scrawled statements of neglect and despair from his young workshop participants. “I’m sick of people telling me who I am and who I should be” and “Give us a voice and we will be heard” bracket the abstract shapes and colour fields. Parental pressures, support, work and education deficiencies, digital expectation and the pressures of neoliberalism on families mount up to a difficult-at-best process of learning to live. Through working with artists, and becoming artists themselves, young people have a space for expression and engagement separate from the social imperative not to learn what is not directly applicable to later life. Street art is an intervention into public space, just as art can be an intervention into the development of good mental health. (LC)
The Acting Scene (Edinburgh based Drama Company) – http://theactingscene.co.uk/
Mental Health Statistics (Young Minds) - http://www.youngminds.org.uk/training_services/policy/mental_health_statistics
Supporting Young People’s Health and Wellbeing (Scottish Government Policy Summary) –
Street Art News - https://streetartnews.net
Dale vN Marshall Q&A – http://www.tracscotland.org/scottish-storytelling-centre/news/qa-dale-vn-marshall