Opening hours: Wed- Fri 1- 5pm, Sat 11am- 3pm

Drawing on Illness’

art and therapy//art as therapy

Beth Frazer

Ends 27 November 2010

Beth Frazer's self portraits are frank investigations of her body and personality. Triggered through an illness which was clinically difficult to diagnose, she started to research and explore the symptoms, her feelings and pain through the medium of art, with herself and her illness as the focal point. Her ‘portraits of an illness’ are self portraits, direct, curious and with a quality of x- rays. And although the images represent a difficult and distressing subject, they never become sentimental or are mere illustrations of a painful condition.
For this project, Beth Frazer recreates the physical and mental space, illness, medical diagnosis, treatment and healing occupied for her. An installation which resembles a hospital room but also a medical archive of personal files, medication, injection needle and a row of plasters, collected samples of a treatment process.  
As the artist explicitly expresses and investigates the link of art and art therapy, a talk about this subject will accompany the project.

To read an interview with Beth Frazer and culture northernireland. org klick here.


Creativity - A tool for healing
Text research by Louise Younger & Rebekah Wilson


Art Therapy is a form of expressive therapy in which the visual arts can be used as a tool for healing. The relationship between art and therapy is an important one as it has been proven that the body and mind initially and subconsciously respond to imagery before words. Art therapy provides a way in which people who find it difficult to express their emotions through words, are able to do so visually.
Art therapy involves working through painful and uncomfortable thoughts and emotions and trying to replace them with positive and healing ones through creativity and productivity. Where the final artworks that are created are important in a diagnostic sense, some people can also find the physical and creative process of making the art beneficial as it allows them to examine the body as well as (either conscious or repressed) feelings and emotions, through using their imagination. The work created can take forms in many different ways, including self-portraits. It is inevitable that sensitive and complicated histories of self and self-image are often highlighted due to the self-reflective nature of Art therapy. This deciphering of the self allows for the opportunity to change - to change your perceptions of yourself, your illness or situation and how you view your emotions towards this illness or situation.

Art and therapy can be traced back at least to Aristotle and his theory of catharsis, the cleansing of the soul through a theatre play.
The same might be true for the visual arts, especially when it centres around self expression.
Art therapy as an academic and professional subject had its beginnings in post-war USA and is now widely established and practised.
Broadly described as a form of psychotherapy that uses art media as its primary mode of communication, art therapy finds its practical use in hospitals, prisons, social welfare institutions and in psychiatry.
Northern Ireland seemed to be slow in adapting art therapy and only in 2002, a three year course at Queen’s University was established, which subsequently created awareness and new posts in institutions and organisations employing methods of psychotherapy.
With the current project ‘Drawing on Illness’ as the backdrop, this talk by art therapists, artists and academics will highlight different aspects of art therapy, its theory, practice and study possibilities and employment specifically in Northern Ireland.

“For me, the action of making art is like having a conversation. As the conversation unfolds, a series of sculptures and paintings work their way out. One conversation leads to another, and the imagery takes on a new course. This process can be described as an internal dialogue.” (1)
- Allison Newsome

“When a person doesn’t know how to safely express anger, a person begins to warp, to see through distorted eyes, to torture his own immune system with demons real and unimagined. The energy expended to hold down the upwelling magma of rage may explode through all precautions and destroy everything the person sought to protect. The mind, the spirit, and the body become weakened by the stress, … Yet as soon as a person learns to safely express that anger he can not only release the terrified inner child curled up within, but can also reap the pure gold that is the reward and strength of being honest.” (2)
- Jeanne Norsworthy


NIGAT – Northern Ireland Group for Art as Therapy is a unique forum of individuals who advocate the use of Art as Therapy and Art Therapy to facilitate health and well-being. It was first formed in 1976, and became a registered charity in 1989 and operates as a membership organisation, which is administered by a voluntary committee, elected annually at the AGM from within the membership group.
NIGAT promotes the use of Art Therapy and Art as Therapy in the community and institutional settings. It provides a unique focus for art, music and drama therapists, artists and those working in health & social services, education and voluntary agencies. Its aims and objectives include increasing the awareness of the value of the therapeutic art approach. They also have a commitment in promoting research into Art Therapy and Art Psychotherapy. In turn NIGAT provides a unique forum for many persons, whether it is those interested in using art-making to maintain and/or promote well-being, those who wish to pursue Art Therapy/Art Psychotherapy as a profession or within their existing work, those interested in exploring art-making for personal development or even people who just generally wish to gain/extend their awareness of the nature of Art Therapy /Art Psychotherapy.


The Waterford Healing Arts Project, part of Waterford Regional Hospital, believe that interaction with the arts stimulates an individual’s sense of identity and creativity, and that this stimulation provides a vital aid in the recovery of the body and mind. It is just one of many facilities in the U.K to offer a variety of initiatives to allow patients to experience with the arts, such as an exhibition of artworks throughout the hospital, artist-led workshops with staff and patients and outreach programmes.


The British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT) is the professional organisation for art therapists in the United Kingdom and maintains a comprehensive directory of qualified art therapists and works to promote art therapy in the UK. BAAT runs courses and seminars throughout the year. These include courses suitable for qualified art therapists, related professionals and also for the general public. They also run a course aimed at those who are considering a career in art therapy. The one day “Introduction to Art Therapy” course consists of information about the practice of art therapy and the possible career routes into it. It provides examples of art therapy casework and some one-to-one advice with one of the course leaders about the specific circumstances of each individual attending. The BAAT also runs Art Therapy Foundation courses throughout the year, on a Tuesday or Thursday evening. For people who find weekly commitment difficult, a one week Art Therapy Foundation course also runs regularly. Comprising of 20 regional groups, a European section and an international section, BAAT provides people with an insight into what Art Therapy is and endorses the practice of Art Therapy as an important method of assisting mental health in the UK.

Annie McIntyre

BAAT Council Member 2009-2010
“I am a practising artist and a qualified Art Therapist.  I am currently self-employed and working full time for the Northern Ireland Prison Service.  My current clients are female prisoners and male young offenders.
I am most interested in working with disenfranchised and marginalised groups in society.  I believe that the process of making art is empowering and enabling.  Making art with an art therapist can facilitate growth and healing.  The art object can be used to work through difficult thoughts and feelings.  The page can become a place to practise new ways of interacting with the world.  These `new ways' can then be re-enacted in everyday life.
My main artistic practice is live performance.  I also work with installation, collage and photography.  I am particularly interested in working with 'found' or previously used objects.”

Art Therapy/ Art as Therapy is somewhat still thought of as an “alternative” treatment, but yet it is growing in popularity as an effective means of action towards treating mental illnesses and also in dealing with mental stress that physical illnesses can cause.

Creativity allows for freedom of expression, freedom of emotion and freedom from sickness.


1. Ganim, B.  ART & HEALING: Using Expressive Art to Heal Your Body, Mind, and Spirit, New York, Three Rivers Press, 1999, p.109

2. Ganim, B.  ART & HEALING: Using Expressive Art to Heal Your Body, Mind, and Spirit, New York, Three Rivers Press, 1999,p.9


Project assistance: Louise Younger & Rebekah Wilson