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Stroke Month: When Art Heals - Richard Creme Exhibition

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Last week a painting depicting harrowing mental distress sold for £74 million. Edvard Munch's The Scream is now forever as famous for its material value as for its contribution to the history of art and Expressionist movement.

Munch painted The Scream (sometimes called The Cry) during a very difficult time in his life when he felt tremendous isolation and anxiety. Some say the painting depicts the soul's cry of despair and that is why its raw imagery has such a deep impact on the viewer - thus its mass appeal.

There is no doubting the power of expressing oneself though art. It is incredibly cathartic and healing. Indeed, you don't have to be a tortured Van Gough or Munch to soon realise that a creative outlet for major change, stress and trauma is a positive and somehow naturally brilliant way of recovering.

It was very apt therefore to find myself in the same week that Munch's The Scream was making headlines, at the opening of a very special exhibition in Manchester - celebrating exactly the transformative power of art and creativity.

I was at the preview of Manchester fashion guru Richard Creme's art show - at the Link Gallery - Manchester Metropolitan University's Art School.

It was a really uplifting event with lots of old faces from Manchester's Hacienda days and of course the city's thriving arts and music community.

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The show was in collaboration with The Stroke Association, Arts For Health and of course Richard himself. Check out this video from the night here.

This month (May) marks Action On Stroke Month and many exciting developments for The Stroke Association - including some new and improved branding and the UK-wide raising of awareness of how there is 'life after a stroke'.

Richard Creme is an amazing example of this. Back in the day when he set up probably the coolest and most exclusive fashion store in Manchester - L'Homme - he enjoyed a reputation as a style icon and visionary. He dressed the likes of Prince, Bowie, David Beckham and a host of stars and musicians locally too.

You could not miss Richard in Manchester... literally. He is a giant of a man at over 6ft 6ins tall! As a cheeky teenager back in the 80s, I would hang out in places like Horts' Bar and the Hacienda Club (I was totally underage, yes) and see him on the 'Manchester scene' - super-tall, deep voiced and always looking very, very cool.

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When I heard on the grapevine that he had suffered a stroke in 2007, aged only 50, I was really saddened. His shop L'Homme had to be closed down and I am sure his devoted wife Shelley, family and all close to him must have had to face some really challenging and painful times as they saw such a talented, able man struggle with a huge life change - physically, emotionally and socially.

Having lost the ability to speak and most of the movement on the right side of his body, he naturally sank into a depression. However, over time, with support and with a lot of courage on his part, he began drawing (using his left hand - he is naturally right-handed) and producing really expressive, detailed images. He began painting too - producing some outstanding self-portraits.

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Five years on from his stroke, Richard's exhibition shows us all just how powerful a role art and creativity, along with a lot of love and support from professionals, family and organisations like The Stroke Association, can go to help 're-invent' and heal an individual afflicted by a serious health issue.

So, do go and check out Richard's work at the gallery - it really is special. I particularly love the portraits and the quirky Biro images too - they ooze deep reflection, the reality of Richard's life today and of course, humour. He still has a cracking sense of humour and no stroke will defeat his lust for life either.

Also, check out this brilliant blog by Clive Parkinson from Arts for Health - it is a great read and deeper insight in to Richard and how art can heal and support those with illness and to improve health. Read it here.

The Richard Creme exhibition runs until 11 May at MMU's Link Gallery as part of The Stroke Association's Action On Stroke Month, supported by Arts For Health.


http://www.stroke.org.uk/strokemonth

http://mmulinkgallery.wordpress.com/

Special credit to all those who worked so hard at the launch event and to get the exhibition highlighted - well done The Stroke Association (Chris Larkin), Clive Parkinson (Arts for Health), photographer Jillian Hartley and cheers to the excellent Yang Sing who provided refreshments/drinks on the night.

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