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Bipolar Edinburgh art commission unveiled!

Winner Erical McCracken explains her work at our recent all-ages group meeting.


A triptych painting depicting bipolar disorder
Erical McCracken's triptych describing bipolar

As part of this year’s Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival, Bipolar Edinburgh held a small artist commission to produce a new piece of work related to the mental health condition bipolar. The commissioned piece of art sought to bring insight to a particular aspect of living with the condition. The artists were also encouraged to consider how SMHAF’s 2023 festival theme of ‘Revolution’ might be reflected in their work.


There does appear to be a strong connection between bipolar and creativity. Not just in the visual arts such as painting, but throughout the arts in general – Steven Fry for example is a well-known person with lived experience in the dramatic arts.


Of the 12 excellent submissions, the judges considered that of artist Erical McCracken to be outstanding. Erical completed her commission and was invited to attend the group meeting in September to unveil her work.


A painting by Erical McCracken depicting bipolar disorder
Erical McCracken's triptych painting depicting bipolar

Erical explained as follows:


"I’d like to say a very big thank you to Bipolar Edinburgh for awarding me this commission — I have thoroughly enjoyed working on this piece, and actually was so excited about it that I started before I knew if I’d got the commission or not! The call out was most inspiring, and I’m very grateful for that initial stimulus as well as the support to see it through to completion.

"For a tiny bit of background to my work in general, I love using found objects and giving them a new purpose. I had been thinking about how cool it would be to make a triptych painting out of cupboard doors but I couldn't think of a theme for it until I saw the call out — triptychs often tell a story. A lot of folk might think that a diptych (a two-piece artwork) would be the right medium for a work about bipolar, but I think it’s a triptych, because in between the two contrasting states is balance, however elusive. I was very keen to take apart an actual spirit level and attach it to the central panel to represent that balance. Normally I like to use bold, vibrant acrylics and I have a habit of painting things black — since I’m in the company of likeminded friends, perhaps I can share my wee joke that in terms of colour, my work tends to be mostly monochrome with the occasional manic episode! But although I did try to find the most exciting emulsion shades, I think it’s fitting that I’ve ended up using only house paints, because these colours represent moods, and these are colours that we have to live with: orange for energy and optimism, blue the classic symbol of depression, and green for peace, harmony and balance.

"The image that most encapsulates bipolar disorder to me is a moment I often experience where I realise I’ve come up too high and am about to drop. The front of the artwork depicts that moment, then the moment of falling, then an episode of depression, lying on the floor. The perspective changes across the three panels to track the motion of the fall.


The reverse of a painting by Erical McCracken depicting bipolar disorder
Erical McCracken's triptych painting depicting bipolar disorder

"On the back is a straightforward diptych, looking up to the ceiling and down to the floor, because I really wanted to make the most of the sculptural quality of the piece and for people to be able to walk around it and observe the different perspectives on the same life. This was one of the ways that the SMHAF theme of Revolution came very organically into the work. When I was drilling on the hinges, I noticed I was accidentally making some quite interesting circular marks, then I noticed the circles that already existed on the panels, and I decided to accentuate these with colours that according to my research would be associated with rapid cycling bipolar in particular.

"I thought the stag head was quite a Scottish emblem, for Edinburgh, and I’ve used it as a device to situate the painting in a living room and to tell the story of moving between states. While in the central panel the head is blurred, the spirit level is not only in focus but tangible, to remind us that balance is always there even if it feels like we’re just going past it on the way up or down.


Thank you Erical!


You can view more of Erical's work:



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