Case Study

“I’ve produced work that is about me; that communicates my personal mental health journey.”

Date published: 16 May 2023

Posted by: Joe Pick

Artist Edwina Kung in her art studio

Edwina is a 28 years old illustrator and visual artist from Hong Kong. In 2020 she completed an MFA degree in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University

The artist first shared her talent with City Arts by submitting work for our annual open exhibition with the University of Nottingham’s Institute of Mental Health. Her works ‘Body Memories 1 & 2’ appeared in our online ‘Re-Imagine’ exhibition.

Since then, City Arts has supported Edwina to mount a solo exhibition called ‘Inner Rooms, Inner Mind’ at the Institute of Mental Health. We invited her to speak at an online seminar exploring young people’s creativity and mental health. Edwina led a live streamed workshop for us, demonstrating some of her personal creative process. ‘Inner Rooms, Inner Mind’ is currently being exhibited in The Window Gallery at City Arts.

Edwina spoke to us about the support she has received from City Arts.

I already knew of City Arts before I submitted my work to your online exhibition. It’s one of my favourite art centres as it is very community based. I’ve attended workshops at the centre in the past. It’s inviting and welcoming, which I really like.

I started drawing every day during COVID because I didn’t know what else to do. At that time, we were all struggling a bit with our wellbeing and mental health. I saw the call for submissions for City Arts and the Institute of Mental Health’s open exhibition. It really chimed with what I was going through. City Arts selected me for a solo exhibition based on my work that appeared in the open exhibition. I’m really glad I applied to the open call.

Illustration by Edwina Kung. A faceless figure opens a window on it's chest to reveal a smaller figure inside.
Illustration by Edwina Kung. Stylized tree in the hair of a female figure.

In the past, during my art education, I’ve felt the need to make work that appealed to universal themes and experiences. City Arts have really encouraged me to talk about myself. I’ve produced work that is about me; that communicates my personal mental health journey. It has shown me that it is okay to make art that is about myself.

Everyone at City Arts is so willing to help. Alma and Joe especially spent a lot of time working with me. I know how busy the organisation is, and that my events were just two of the many, many things going on there, but they were still very happy to spend a whole afternoon with me just figuring things out. My exhibition ended up being wonderful. I’m really grateful for that support.

Edwina’s livestreamed workshop

Looking back over my past few years of work and coming up with a title for my exhibition was very useful experience. It helped me reframe the meaning of my work, to better understand how my artworks related to my mental health at the time of production. When we worked together on the exhibition description, City Arts were keen to talk about how the work communicated things about my own personal experiences of mental health. It feels important that I was able to reveal a part of myself that didn’t feel able to share before. I think I’ll definitely do more work about mental health in the future.

The way I think and speak about my art has evolved over the time I spent working with City Arts. I now say my work is about “archiving stories”. People’s stories get erased all the time. Through my work I am able to capture these unheard stories, commit them to paper or canvas, and therefore keep them alive. We all have stories. Going forward, I want to illustrate other people’s stories and collective stories, as well as my own personal journey.

Edwina’s story shows the wide-ranging impact that City Arts’ support can have on early career artists. As well as her exhibition with City Arts, she recently took part in ‘The Missing Women’, a group exhibition at Auckland Castle, in Bishop Auckland.

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