Lasting Essence – an exhibition at the Arch Cafe


I have a print of one of Peter Shillito’s paintings in my front room. It’s a bright, complex, abstract design that people often comment on, and the colours in particular (strong blues, greens, purple) are very beautiful. Peter is a genuine mystic, whose poems and artwork form a whole – two different ways of pointing toward the same truth.

His exhibition ‘Lasting Essence’ is currently showing at the Arch Café, (just off Dortmund Square, round the corner from the St. John’s Centre). As well as about 20 of his paintings, there is a book of poetry with the same title, which has images of some of the paintings in it. It’s a lovely little collection. The title poem ‘written soon after a mental illness had torn my world apart’, sets the tone:

Little Tree

A small tree may grow

Its branches reaching out

like the arms of a child

Touching a golden sun

Its leaves whisper

and flutter free

Like a dove on a wing,

out into Eternity.

The theme of finding light out of mental darkness, and discovering that ‘breakdown’ can lead to ‘breaking through’, is a theme that runs through Peter’s writing. It made me think of another English poet/painter mystic, William Blake:

“What is the price of Experience? Do men buy it for a song? Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No, it is bought with the price

Of all that a man hath, his house, his wife, his children Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy”

Peter is a member of the Living Artists Movement, the group Ushawant Kaur began, which printed his book. He’s also a regular member of the Scattered Leaves group, where practising artists and writers share their work every first Tuesday evening at the Civic Hall. The Lasting Essence exhibition will run until the 18th of August.

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Love Arts 2013 launched!

Love Arts poster

You could hardly move for survivor artists, wandering poets, volunteers, photographers, cake makers, community reporters and the great and the good of the local mental health scene. Love Arts, the three week long festival that seeks to get people thinking and talking about mental health is back in town, after two successful years in previous Autumns. Yesterday saw the festival launch, with an art exhibition, ‘Highlights’, from the Leeds Arts & Minds Network, which will be showing at the Light until Sunday 13 October.  Even more than in previous years I was struck by the enormous variety of artwork on display, and how good some of it is – certainly worth a special trip out of your way to see.

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Time to Change Leeds has been spearheading the assault on stigma and discrimination in our wicked city, and they were busy waylaying passers by and getting pledges.

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You had to accept cookies in order to fully participate, and some  were decorated with wild abandon, throwing caution and calorie counting to the wind and laughing in the face of healthy eating programmes.


There are literally dozens of things going on in the city over the next three weeks – you can see the full programme at the Love Arts Festival website. Some of the stand out things for me are:

The Love Music Leeds album launch on Friday 11 October at All Hallows Church, Regent Terrace, Leeds 6, 7.45 – 11 p.m. costing £7.50. This features local musicians exploring the connections between music and mental wellbeing through songs nominated because they’ve been found helpful, inspiring or comforting.

The Word Emporium at Trinity Church on Boar Lane on Wednesday 16 October, 6.30 – 9.15, will be a night of spoken word and music where you can earn the prestigious title of Love Arts Festival Word Champion for performing a couple of pieces in the open mic – or just come along and watch for £2/£3.

Unheard Voices is a free exhibition about the people who lived, visited and worked at High Royds Hospital, the old Victorian asylum. This launches on Monday 7 October , 5 – 7 p.m. in Leeds Central Library, and will be open during normal library opening hours after that.


Whatever your taste in arts there’s probably something at the festival you can enjoy. A lot of the things are free or cheap, and they run during the day-time as well as in the evenings. Check it out.


Spurn Point, Holderness – a beautiful painting by Leeds Artist: Jo Dunn

A fantastic painting by Jo Dunn, it makes me feel peaceful, almost as I am there – watching the sunset and the city skyline from afar.

Jo Dunn

Spurn Point on the longest day – sunset and moonrise, 180 degrees apart. We went for an evening picnic. These paintings are from the landward-side near the Spurn Bird Observatory. Whenever I go to Spurn I wonder why I stayed away so long and I never want to leave.

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….we’ve fired a robot to Mars. Next up, living on the moon?

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…you’ll love it.

‘Maybe you can live on the moon in the next century’ – Fiona Rae

Taking a quiet hour or two for yourself and visiting an art gallery, or maybe a local museum exhibition here in Leeds, is something I recommend, if like me, you sometimes struggle with those niggly blues. Looking at other peoples’ ideas – for me – really takes me out of myself.

Big canvases, bold paint strokes, bright, confident colours, and an amazing range of different brush spatters and strokes all clamour for your attention when you stand in front of one of Fiona Rae’s paintings. It’s like stepping into someone else’s head for a while.

Fiona Rae’s head looks like a busy, dynamic and most important of all, a FUN place to visit!

It’s busy stuff alright. Bright. Dark. Colourful. Quirky. Odd fluffy pandas floating about amongst digital shoot outs and video games and flowers. Dramatic colour clashes but also little corners of quiet delicate beauty, as well.

What I like is how absorbing each different picture is. I find myself standing in front of each one for ages, getting lost in all the detail.

Picture titles like ‘As I run and run, happiness comes closer’, ‘Side by side, I’ll be yours forever’ and ‘My favourite puppy’s life’ just make you all the more intrigued as to what the stories are here. I like that. ‘What on earth is she thinking here?!…’

And the great thing? there is no right or wrong answer to that. Fiona says as much in an interesting video which you can watch about her and her work. The Art Gallery are playing this video for you to help you find out more in the corridor alongside the quiet exhibition space.

We all have our stories inside of us, and we all have special moments of dark and light that make us the special people we are. This exhibition reminds you of that.

Art galleries are undemanding, restful places, where you can wander about at your leisure, and just see whatever it is that takes your fancy. Leeds Art gallery is great for this. The staff are friendly and helpful if you have a question about stuff. And it’s FREE! And if you get bored of being stimulated by all the art in there, you can always go grab a lovely cup of tea and a cake in the Tiled Hall tea room next door. Nice scones. ; )

a small pleasure. and it’s the small pleasures you give to yourself that can make all the difference.

The beautiful Fiona Rae painting exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery this summer, runs ’til 26th Aug. Be quick though, because it ends soon! Take yourself to another place and go visit: it’s well worth a look. ~ Stuart Petch

Link: Leeds Art Gallery