Utter Bedlam (2023) is Brendan Kelly’s latest solo exhibition of mixed media paintings, which focuses on Australia’s first purpose-built psychiatric hospital, the Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum (later Gladesville Hospital), which opened in 1838 in the Sydney suburb of Gladesville.
Using the Gladesville Hospital as a microcosm for the broader examination of mental health care, the artist attempts to better understand historical and contemporary practices and attitudes, how they were formed, how they have changed, and what may lie ahead.
The works in the exhibition explore the theme using raw, direct, gestural marks alongside fractured, figurative, cartoon-like passages with a mixture of mediums including acrylics, graphite, charcoal and photo collage. The artist uses bright and bold colour to effectively address the light and dark shades of sensitive subject matter with intelligence, empathy, irony and compassion.
Through the exhibition, the artist hopes to increase awareness, acceptance and understanding of mental health issues, and to open new dialogues relevant to the past, present and future of mental health and wellbeing in all forms everywhere.
Language Warning: Some words and terminology used in the Utter Bedlam exhibition such as asylum, lunatic, mental hospital, and hysteria are now considered out of date or inappropriate. They have been used to express and address historical content relating to contemporary mental health care. No offence is intended.