ANNUAL ART AUCTION Saturday 14 November – Report


Centrepieces' 15th auction had an encouraging response from the residents of Dartford.

The busy auction space in the Orchards Shopping Centre.

On Saturday 14 November, The Orchards Shopping Centre in Dartford played host to Centrepieces’ 15th annual auction. As in previous years, the object was to raise money for the artists who are members of the charity, as well as increase funds to help keep the organisation running.

On a wet but busy pre-Christmas shopping day, prospective buyers were invited into an auction space set up in one of the Shopping Centre’s vacant shops. There they found a very professionally laid out registration desk, 100+ framed pieces of artwork, a table of sculpture and some packed information boards about the services and events that Centrepieces offers. The auction had been open since Thursday to receive prior bids and, in a sign of how popular it had been, several had been accepted before Saturday morning.

Centrepieces' Co-ordinator Geoff Norris
with artist Christie Cassisa.
Overall, Centrepieces’ artist Christie Cassisa witnessed a positive response from Dartford residents: ‘I think the public’s imagination opened up as they stood there amongst the artwork, because the part of their minds they would usually be embarrassed about was stimulated. For instance, a few people were artists themselves and they were happy that all these varied artists had a place to present their stuff. From that, there was one woman who’s an artist with a history of mental illness who wants to come and see what Centrepieces is all about.

‘There was one funny moment. I asked one woman “What do you think?” and she was unimpressed until I told her all the work had been done by people with issues like depression and schizophrenia, and then she said “Oh, actually, some of it’s pretty good!” That shows perceptions can change very quickly, from not knowing anything about Centrepieces to being genuinely interested in the charity. That’s very, very important for people who suffer this kind of disability. It’s somewhere they can come where they’re not outsiders. The meeting place and the auction was brilliant for letting people know about us.’

Auctioneer Paul Adams.
When the auction commenced at 12.30 prompt, with most of the 28 buyers’ seats filled, each artist was introduced by the painter Nicole reading out a short biography, all of which were touchingly honest and in some cases very moving. As the porters held up individual artworks, bids (usually above the reserve price) were invited by auctioneer Paul Adams, Chairman of the Disabled Photographers’ Society. After a slow start, Paul’s infectiously enthusiastic personality encouraged a generous response, resulting in 40 pieces of work being sold in just 1 and ½ hours, raising £1,200.

The event was over all too quickly at 2.00pm, but was successful enough to ensure that this year’s Centrepieces auction won’t be the last. Buyers, charity officials, and above all the artists, all went home happy. 

Photographs copyright: Dawn Tomlin
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Orchard's Shopping Centre, Dartford, from 12.30pm.

This November sees the 15th Annual Auction of artwork created by artists from Centrepieces. The event raises money to help keep the organisation running, with 50% of sales going to the artists who are members of Centrepieces, all of whom have experienced mental health problems.

Originally established with a £5,000 Millennium Award from the National Lottery, Centrepieces was for many years supported by the Crayford Centre, which was part of the local mental health services. It moved in June 2014 to new premises in the Lodge at Hall Place in Bexley, financially supported by Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust. Today, Centrepieces consists of around 100 artists, many of whom volunteer to help run the project. Centrepieces became a Charitable Incorporated Organisation in February 2015 and is currently looking to fundraise to secure its longer term future.

Centrepieces exists to promote mental health recovery through the arts, creating opportunities for people to take part in art activities, and to exhibit and sell their work; it also tries to promote a better understanding of mental health in the wider public. With that aim in mind, the charity promotes public art in the local community, such as ‘The Worrier’ (above) previously sited by the river Cray in Crayford Town Centre, and the ‘The Nest’ (left) sculpture at Hall Place, projects which have been led by Centrepieces artists.

This year’s Auction previews from Thursday 12th to the morning of Saturday 14 November, and visitors can make advanced bids for any work they are interested in buying, if unable to attend the event itself.

Below are some examples of the style of work that will be on offer:

'Purple Haze' by Trevor Whiting

'The Accumulated Darkness of Many
Old Things' by Kim Campbell

'Flower 2' by Neil Butler

'Threesome' by Barbara French

'Shout Louder' by Dawn Tomlin

'Transition' by Christie Cassisa

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Centrepieces' Assistant Co-ordinator, Dawn Tomlin, relates how the charity has given her the confidence to rebuild her life.

'Forget Me Not' by Dawn Tomlin

I have been with Centrepieces since the end of May 2014 thanks to my counsellor, who suggested that I contacted the Co-ordinator to see if I could volunteer for the project as an art tutor. I was present for the last three weeks of the charity being based at the Crayford Centre, and joined in with the packing up and move of Centrepieces to the Lodge at Hall Place. Those last three weeks meant that I got to see everyone pull together as a team which was a great encouragement for me, due to a life-long distrust of people.

Sculptures by Dawn Tomlin
I have suffered since secondary school with depression and extreme social anxiety which developed further into full blown panic attacks. Bullying was emotional, verbal and physical. It was this bullying that caused me to follow a dysfunctional adult life where I kept myself isolated from people, even work colleagues, as I did not trust anyone. This was not only a very lonely life, but I became emotionally stunted, due to the fact that not having friends meant that I had been unable to communicate and mix with other adults in any type of situation. This lack of social skills also meant that I would run from any form of negativity or confrontation, no matter how tiny or insignificant it actually was, which led to me walking out from every job I ever held.

'Distress' by Dawn Tomlin
Once I had begun on my new journey with the volunteers and the artists of Centrepieces I soon began to realise that I had lots to offer people, not only as an artist and as a volunteer tutor, but as myself. With all of my insecurities, phobias and distorted ways of thinking, I was still accepted and valued by everyone. This acceptance was to act as a starting point for me: I began to see myself in a different light and this enabled me to begin to grow into my adult shoes.

I now help run the Lodge and as Assistant Co-ordinator I find myself dealing with people both internally and externally. My protective barrier has been lowered, my understanding and participation in work-related and friendship relationships is fully functional and I have found that, thanks to the encouragement and support of all at Centrepieces, not only have I blossomed as a person but I am a strong person.

This change has also influenced my work as an artist. I am able to open up and show my deepest fears and emotional traumas by producing thought-provoking conceptual art. This form of communication not only helps me to heal, but just as importantly, it acts as a message to a wider audience. By sharing my deepest fears, crippling emotions, thoughts and worries, I allow people to glimpse what it is like to suffer with a mental illness. I am now able to reach outwards towards people with confidence rather than hide in a corner, alone.

Blossoming is possible.

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Monday 28 September - Friday 23 October 2015

An example of the selection at Bexleyheath Library.

Our members who are exhibiting have overcome severe mental health difficulties, largely by being empowered through art. Tony Bennett, ‘a functioning alcoholic and drug addict’, credits Centrepieces with bringing ‘art back into my life’, to the extent that ‘the concentration and enjoyment I get helps keep out all the rubbish that’s in my head’. Georgina Bowen says her depression has been alleviated by her painting, revealing that ‘it has been very therapeutic for me, and very beneficial for my health and wellbeing’, while Barbara Anne French’s art ‘fills up my time and via my paintings I am transported into another world. A happier one’. Joan Sher comments that ‘in times of stress and worry I find it quite uplifting splashing around with very bright colours’, while Trevor Whiting sums up the whole ethos of Centrepieces by observing, ‘working alongside such a diverse and friendly group of artists… is helping me become more confident in both my own ability as an artist and my self-esteem.’

We are partly using the Bexleyheath exhibition to help publicise World Mental Health Day, which takes place on Saturday 10 October. This year, the World Health Organisation are raising awareness of what can be done to ensure that people with mental health conditions can continue to live with dignity, specifically through human rights orientated policy and law; training of health professionals; respect for informed consent to treatment; inclusion in decision-making processes and public information campaigns.

More of the art on display.
Centrepieces believes that effectively supporting people experiencing mental health problems is becoming one of the greatest public health challenges of our time. Stigmatising and discriminatory treatment can be particularly distressing when a person is experiencing a mental health crisis. By failing to treat people with mental health problems with dignity, we make it more difficult to ensure that everyone takes steps to safeguard their wellbeing and to seek help, as it can lead to self-stigma, low confidence, low self-esteem, withdrawal and social isolation.

Please support the Centrepieces exhibition in Bexleyheath library, as it’s a prime example of what people can achieve in an atmosphere of sympathy, encouragement and support.

List of Paintings and Artists

1.      Arrangement in blue No.18  Richard Jones
2.      Baby in the bulrushes  Martin Robinson
3.      Candle in the Wind  Martin Robinson
4.      The Milk Maid (after Vermeer) Georgina Bowen
5.      Cork Head  Tony Bennett
6.      Ever Watchful  Tony Bennett
7.      The 4 Cottages  Barbara French
8.      Togetherness  Barbara French
9.      Autumn Lake and Three Cows  Barbara French
10.  Clocks Barbara Cotter
11.  Being Set Up By Them (Part 1) Barbara Cotter
12.  Portal to Psychosis  Barbara Cotter
13.  God is Angry and She’s Black  Christie Cassisa
14.  Twilight  Christie Cassisa
15.  Mythical Monster  Steve Jones
16.  Metamorphosis  Peter Walmsley
17.  Liam Gallagher  Trevor Whiting
18.  Dog 1  Trevor Whiting
19.  Rainforest  Dawn Tomkins
20.  Coral  Dawn Tomkins
21.  Poem Concrete Mandala  Ann Cronin
22.  Lost Fennec Fox  Joan Scher
23.  The Lion and the Unicorn  Joan Scher
24.  Rhino  Joan Scher
25.  Julie  Libby Harris & Dave Salonia
26.  Priceless Jordan  Dawn Tomlin
27.  Caught   Dawn Tomlin
28.  Dinner Time  Dawn Tomlin
29.  Chain  Neil Butler
30.  Dungeness Boat  Neil Butler
31.  Clouds  Neil Butler
32.  I Like to Wobble  Alex Spendley
33.  Moss Side  Alex Spendley
34.  Wet Hare  Alex Spendley                  

If you go to the exhibition and are interested in purchasing any of the above, please contact us at Centrepieces.  

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