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To the extent that I managed to translate the emotions into images– that is to say, to find the images which were concealed in the emotions– I was inwardly calmed and reassured. Had I left those images hidden in the emotions, I might have been torn to pieces by them.

Carl Jung kept visual diaries documenting his personal struggles with mental illness, and Jungian analysis to this day encourages patients to document their dreams using imagery. This year’s IR symposium takes Jung’s ‘Red Book’ as a key text and asks how illustration can be used to depict, explain and help understand mental illness and related issues such as wellbeing, happiness, cognition, confusion, dreams and dementia.

A key question is how can illustration represent the inner workings of the mind, through creating visual narratives that draw upon personal and collective experience of the world. A related question is how does illustration articulate complex emotional and perceptual experience, alongside and beyond spoken and written language?How can illustration – as an activity as well as its place in popular visual culture – address these issues?

We are living at a time where image culture has saturated every aspect of our lives. There has been an equivalent explosion in mental health issues for young people. What part does illustration play in exacerbating or alleviating mental health problems by contributing to popular image culture?

GPs now prescribe creative activities as part of a government drive towards ‘arts for health’, and this has resulted in a boom in artist led services to a diverse demographic. What ethical issues should creative practitioners be aware of when working in this field? How can illustrators lead the agenda for mental health policy making?


We invite 300 word proposals for 20 minute presentations and submissions for an accompanying exhibition that address (but are not confined to) the following themes:

  • The use of illustration to depict mental health issues, for instance the use of visual metaphors and clichés

  • Graphic memoirs, autobiographical graphic novels on the subject of mental health

  • historical depictions of mental health, for example folkloric demons and medieval psychomachia

  • Medical illustrations of mental health conditions

  • Trauma illustrated / unlocking trauma

  • The use of illustration in art therapy

  • The pitfalls and ethics of illustrating other people's stories

  • Co-produced illustration with those with lived experience of mental health issues

  • Illustration as self-help, colouring books, visualisation exercises

  • Craft, illustration and making for wellbeing

  • Illustration that enables children to understand mental health issues

  • Illustrators working with adults with dementia

  • How can images help when language has left the body?

  • Narratives of the unconscious; psychoanalytic approaches to illustration

  • Archetypes in storytelling and myth as metaphor for psychological dynamics

  • Does contemporary image culture contribute to mental distress?

  • The pathologised imagination – art produced in medical or institutional contexts

For Presentation Proposals:

We invite proposals for 20 minute presentations, but also welcome proposals for panels or round table discussions and practical workshops.

Please send 300 word proposals including name and accreditation to:

Desdemona McCannon [] and Hannah Mumby []

DEADLINE:  5pm Friday 5th July 2019

For Exhibition Proposals:

We invite proposals for exhibits in the form of images, artefacts and performance based work. We also welcome visualised research in the form of poster presentations.

Please send up to 3 images and a 100 word statement about the work in pdf format to Desdemona McCannon [] and Tobias Hickey [] by Friday July 5th.

Hi resolution scans of selected artworks must be sent for digital printing by September 6th 2019

Please note: costs associated with non digital prints ie. Original images and objects proposed for display, for instance insurance and carriage, must be carried by the artist.

DEADLINE:  5pm Friday 5th July 2019

To find out more:

Visit the Illustration Research Website