Brain injury survivors stage Stratford art exhibition

PUBLISHED: 12:04 30 January 2017 | UPDATED: 14:45 31 January 2017

Mike Poole beside his painting which is on show at Stratford Circus Arts Theatre.

Mike Poole beside his painting which is on show at Stratford Circus Arts Theatre.


A stroke survivor who suffered brain damage can express himself again after picking up a paintbrush.

Stephen Staunton in front of his acrylic painting entitled Stephen Staunton in front of his acrylic painting entitled "Hearing Shapes".

Speaking at a Stratford Circus exhibition of artwork created by survivors of brain injury and organised by charity Headway East London, Mike Poole explained how he had never painted before, but felt a new lease of life after joining a painting session at an artist-led studio called ‘Submit to Love’.

“I really enjoy it. The classes help me express myself and be creative. It revives a talent which has been lost since my head injury,” Mike, a former artistic director who trained in graphic design at art college, said.

“It’s the first time I’ve got my hands dirty with paint and I love it. I love the tactile nature of painting which you don’t get with design.”

Mike, who designed magazines for Tesco, Toyota and the BBC, woke on Valentine’s Day morning two years ago unable to stand up after a stroke injured his brain in his sleep.

“I just crashed on the floor. Your world turns upside down,” the married father of two said.

After eight months in hospital, Mike, 52, got involved in painting at the studio after returning to his home in Finchley.

Explaining his striking work, which took about 10 hours to create, he said: “I like abstract expressionism. Mark Rothko is my inspiration. All I want to do is show colour. I’m colour blind, but those colours work for me. I like the brightness. The colours demand attention.”

Praising staff at the studio, Mike added: “They’ve opened up a new doorway for me. It’s fantastic.”

Artist and creative lead at the studio Michelle Carlile told the Recorder how up to 15 artists a day visit the budding painters, giving brain injury survivors a chance to explore their creativity.

“For some it’s about developing independence again and a feeling of worth and value,” she said.

Michelle explained how one artist on show, Stephen Staunton, benefits from painting.

“Stephen doesn’t have many means to communicate, but now he has these painting to express himself. Some people have so much going on in their heads, but when they are painting they let go of their worries. It’s a meditation of sorts.

“These artists can now contribute to their communities.”

The free exhibition at Stratford Circus Arts Centre runs until Tuesday. February 28.

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