A new RMIT Gallery exhibition offers poignant insights and encourages reflection on the experience of mental illness.
The Door in the Dark (until 19 October) brings together a specially selected group of artworks from The Cunningham Dax Collection.
The collection at The Dax Centre in the Melbourne Brain Centre comprises more than 15,000 artworks made by people who have an experience of mental illness and psychological trauma.
The works offer a unique invitation to enter the intensely subjective interior space of the creators, many of whom made the works in art therapy sessions in psychiatric hospitals between the 1940s and the 1970s.
The exhibition at RMIT Gallery was officially opened by Jeff Kennett AC, chairman beyondblue.
Mr Kennett said artworks that explored our life passage and gave people the opportunity to open their eyes to the inner lives of others were vital in helping those living under a dark cloud of depression or mental illness.
"The greatest gift we have is the gift of life, and that life is fragile, and when we become complacent about this gift we have to find ways of managing and reaching out to others," Mr Kennett said.
It is hoped through gentle and open engagement with these artworks, the negative stereotypes associated with mental illness may be broken down.
RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies said that above all, The Door in the Dark was an exhibition about the capacity of art to provide an insight into the lived experience of others.
"This is a quiet, contemplative exhibition that provides the opportunity for reflection. These artworks exemplify the positive psychological effects of engaging with artistic practice."
Ms Davies, who serves on the board of the Dax Centre, co-curated the exhibition with Juliette Hansen, Exhibitions Manager from the Dax Centre.
Ms Davies selected the works out of 8,000 that Dr Eric Cunningham Dax collected when the psychiatric hospitals were closed in 1980s, as well artworks that had been made independently and donated by artists since the 1980s.
"In these works, there may be ambiguity, deep poignancy, and some darkness," she said.
"At the same time, this exhibition makes visible feelings and experiences with such raw directness that it is profoundly illuminating," she said.
The Door in the Dark is at RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston St, Melbourne, until Saturday, 19 October.