“Art gives me peace.”

Above: "Moonlight" by Freedom from Torture client Iqbal, to be featured in November's exhibition 

Blog by Ellie May, Communications Team

Amongst the internationally renowned artists, like Sir Antony Gormley and Sir Quentin Blake, exhibiting at Freedom from Torture’s Drawing A Line Under Torture exhibition in November, there are some newcomers: Freedom from Torture clients. So, what role does art play at Freedom from Torture?

“Art can very powerfully carry the unspeakable and painful.” Says Frederica, who runs art therapy sessions at the charity.

“For some survivors, their experiences are too painful to talk about. So I facilitate the use of creativity for expressing and ultimately helping understand their experiences.”

Group sessions, like art therapy, can also support those attending to feel less isolated and form new friendships, helping to combat loneliness. Significantly, group sessions can also be a stepping stone for those who want to move on from one-to-one therapy.

Group sessions, like art therapy, can also support those attending to feel less isolated and form new friendships, helping to combat loneliness. Significantly, group sessions can also be a stepping stone for those who want to move on from one-to-one therapy.

One of the most interesting projects at Freedom from Torture is the Open Art Studio supported by Frederica. It’s a thriving space, buzzing with creativity and feels more public and workshop like than art therapy sessions.

It is home to a mixture of longer-standing members, developing their painting, drawing or sculpting skills, and new members with an interest in the arts. Some drop-in briefly, others stay for the full three hours. A few of the members of the studio have not used art materials since before they were tortured.

“I encourage authenticity through aesthetic integrity”, says Frederica, “there are a broad range of experiences and capacities to be nurtured.”

For Frederica, it’s important that she can support and contain differences between the private confidentiality of art therapy and the potentially more public creativity of the Open Art Studio.

“I see that an important role for me is to mediate, hold these frames, so to speak.”

These creative spaces have brought about some interesting collaborations too. Notably between members of the Open Art Studio, Freedom from Torture’s art therapy group, and potter Pauline Finnegan.

Over four sessions, the group created a selection of hand-painted pots, vessels and bowls, which will feature in the Drawing A Line Under Torture exhibition. There was a natural, spontaneous collaboration as the group worked together “like silent music” to decorate each other’s work.

Other Freedom from Torture clients will also have work featured in the auction. Like Iqbal from Sri Lanka. Before he came to the UK Iqbal used to paint and was inspired to do so again by seeing snow on the tree leaves while on his way to a therapy session at Freedom from Torture’s North West Centre.

For many of the clients, like Iqbal, art is a release.

“I enjoy art, it gives me peace. When I am confused I go to painting.”

But it serves a greater purpose. For those featured in this year’s exhibition and auction, art is something to take pride and confidence in; a reminder of their talents and how far they’ve come. But, it’s also a way to give back.

“I feel proud and happy that I can do something to repay all of the help I have had here. I have had good thoughts and ideas from coming here to calm my mind. My life is changed now and because of that I want to help.” - Iqbal

“I feel proud and happy that I can do something to repay all of the help I have had here. I have had good thoughts and ideas from coming here to calm my mind. My life is changed now and because of that I want to help.” - Iqbal

Art is a valuable medium through which torture survivors can express themselves, accessing emotions which they may not be ready to verbalise in one to one counselling sessions. Find out more about our Art Therapy groups by clicking below.

Art Therapy