© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2019

Pastel madness: redefining perceptions of mental health

Antoinette Spicer

Local artists are challenging perceptions of ‘madness’ and mental health by showcasing the power of pastel.


Over 50 people gathered at Exchange Christchurch on Monday for the opening of Pastel Madness- an exhibition displaying the artwork of 20 Otautahi creative space artists.

Otautahi Creative Spaces, set up by Kim Morton, supports artists who face mental illness to channel their creativity through artwork.

Creative spaces artist Kerry Gray, who led the pastel art initiative through a series of specialist workshops, said other artists interest spread like “a good virus”.

“It’s become a good virus, it's a positive thing, it encourages everyone and gives us all confidence”, said Gray.

"Given recent tragic events, it has been hard, but art has taught us resilience and helped us bounce back”.

Artist Rebecca McNab said she was proud to see her artwork showcased.

“Seeing this now, I can say this is mine and my peers. All my effort has been worth it. We have come together and developed as artists.”

The exhibition marks the third day of the Divergence festival set up to break down societal stereotypes that people with mental health conditions are incapable members of society.

Festival organiser Hannah Komatsu said it’s important to celebrate the good aspects of mad [mental health] experiences.

“Wisdom doesn’t come from sitting in the sun having a cocktail, wisdom comes from making sense of our experiences, growing and learning. It’s about being proud of who we have become,".

- Pastel Madness runs from April 1- 3 at Exchange Christchurch.