Sarah James is a Norwich based artist whose current practice encompasses the theme of mental health and the use of psychiatric medicine in the treatment of mental health conditions. Mental health is still a taboo subject, despite becoming more of a contemporary issue as it has emerged over recent years in the media. This has become especially forefront with the recent pandemic making mental health a household issue.

Primarily using techniques from printmaking, textiles and sculpture, her work hinges on her own experience of having a mental health condition, along with the institutionalised use of over medication rather than addressing the root cause which has in turn added to stigma of mental health in modern culture. Using this in her artwork has been a form of therapy, allowing creativity as a medium to express and explore emotions and memories, allowing her to project raw emotion constructively.

Sarah has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder – Due to the constant cuts to mental health awareness and support, it took an inordinate amount of time to correctly diagnose and find treatment which suited. Whilst waiting for stability, which was desperately needed, her wellbeing deteriorated drastically resulting in being hospitalised.

Graduating with an MA in Fine Art at Norwich University of the Arts and a BA (Hons) in Fine Art at University of Suffolk, Sarah firmly believes that creating art has helped her during her recovery journey and is a form of self-therapy for her.

Sarah’s artwork is informed by the scale of the pharmaceutical industry and the way in which medication seems to be handed out freely to patients without addressing underlying issues or offering other forms of treatment or therapy. She is interested in the way in which we readily accept over the counter or prescription drugs, how dependent our society is on pharmaceuticals and how casually we use them.

Sarah’s practice is a statement of how difficult it is currently to access long-term holistic treatment for people with mental health problems. In the future she would like to see more funding available to make “Arts on prescription” groups available through the NHS, enabling community Arts workshops for mental health service users.

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