Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Artist Celebrates The Beauty In Schizophrenia, Post-Covid Return To Life in THE FABULOUS BESTIARY Exhibition

On view from August 30 to September 30 at CAP Gallery, the free exhibition will feature Alana Barrell's new work as well as pieces from the last five years.

Artist Celebrates The Beauty In Schizophrenia, Post-Covid Return To Life in THE FABULOUS BESTIARY Exhibition

Le Centre d'Apprentissage Parallèle de Montréal to present Alana Barrell's third solo exhibition, The Fabulous Bestiary.

This series forms part of the ambitious Mental Health Ambassadors project; encouraging people with psychological challenges to develop their artistic work in a supportive environment, using creativity to work through disturbing emotions and move towards wellbeing. On view from August 30 to September 30 at CAP Gallery, the free exhibition will feature Barrell's new work as well as pieces from the last five years.

"COVID was a really hard time for me, and for everyone at the centre," Barrell, 39, recalls. "I'd never been to the psych ward before, but in 2020 I was very ill and was hospitalized three times for three months in total." During peak COVID, the various organizations Alana and her peers rely on for support and wellness were closed like most other establishments. The effects of quarantine, curfew and isolation were hard enough on the reasonably healthy, for those with pre-existing serious mental illnesses they were devastating. "I couldn't paint anymore, I couldn't do anything anymore, I was scared to leave the house and I was scared inside the house!"

As society slowly returned to the new normal, Barrell began her own tenuous journey towards recovery from another debilitating episode of her cyclical schizophrenia. CAP began offering classes again and she tentatively started going back, fighting her demons every step of the way. "It was really hard at first, and everyone else was so afraid as well; it made my illness worse. I'd worry about needing the bathroom when everything was closed because of COVID, I'd start seeing demons and guns everywhere. Sometimes I'd get to CAP only to turn right back around and go home, I just couldn't do it. One time I was so anxious I threw up in my mask on the bus. It's still difficult for me to leave the house some days."

Despite these challenges, her perseverance has paid off. Barrell has assembled an exciting new body of work for her third solo exhibition after The Shortest Path, Usine C (2018) and Wild Characters, CAP (2017). CAP's Artistic Director Xavier Bonpunt is thrilled to display her work again, sharing that "through the wide variety of creatures inspired by the animal world that she creates, she invents a unique bestiary that speaks to us of the living; that speaks of us." Fascinated by animals, Barrell has always drawn from her upbringing around the world-across South Africa, Ethiopia, Canada, Singapore and Brunei-to create colourful creatures, real or imaginary, with a playful and whimsical eye.

In addition, for the first time in her life, Barrell is moving out of her family home after Labour Day to join one of the community living residences run by Forward House. Living with the ups and downs of schizophrenia can make achieving milestones like these harder for hundreds of thousands of Canadians. "In many ways, this is her coming of age, her leaving the nest and gaining more independence," says her sister, Liesl Barrell. "Getting through the worst of the COVID era was tough, but now she's ready to take this leap. I think for her as much as for any of us, living through lockdown renewed her resolve to live life to the fullest."

"I hope my paintings help other people see animals the way I see them," shares Alana. "And to also see the world a bit differently. Some days are dark, but there are always brighter colours waiting for us to paint a new story."




More Hot Stories For You


The Molinari To Celebrate 25th Anniversary With Special ConcertThe Molinari To Celebrate 25th Anniversary With Special Concert
September 29, 2022

To launch its Twentieth and Beyond series, the Molinari Quartet, whose reputation is well known both at home and abroad, is hosting the anniversary-concert The Molinari @ 25, October 14 at 7:30 PM, at the concert hall of the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal.

National Theatre School of Canada Receives Historic $1.5M Donation from The Slaight Family FoundationNational Theatre School of Canada Receives Historic $1.5M Donation from The Slaight Family Foundation
September 28, 2022

The National Theatre School of Canada received a $1.5M donation from the Slaight Family Foundation — the largest in the School’s 62 year history. NTS is one of 22 nationally recognized beneficiaries who have received support as part of a $15M initiative by the Foundation to help revive the Canadian theatre industry post-pandemic.

HARRY POTTER: A YULE BALL CELEBRATION To Make Its Worldwide Debut This Fall In Select CitiesHARRY POTTER: A YULE BALL CELEBRATION To Make Its Worldwide Debut This Fall In Select Cities
September 27, 2022

'Have you ever dreamt of attending the Yule Ball?' This fall, you are invited to the unique celebratory gathering, 'Harry Potter: A Yule Ball Celebration', coming to select cities across the globe for the first time ever, all the way from Milan and Montreal to Houston and Mexico City with dates starting November 18 in the US.

CBC to Air THE PRETENDIANS This WeekCBC to Air THE PRETENDIANS This Week
September 25, 2022

Drew Hayden Taylor (Going Native, Cottagers & Indians, Searching for Winnetou, Mixed Blessings) and Paul Kemp (Nike’s Big Bet, Going Native, Cottagers & Indians, Searching for Winnetou of Paul Kemp Productions are pleased to present the documentary, The Pretendians, on The Passionate Eye, Friday, September 30 at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) on CBC and CBC Gem. No repeats planned at this time. 

Van Grimde Corps Secrets Presents MESSISVan Grimde Corps Secrets Presents MESSIS
September 22, 2022

Van Grimde Corps Secrets presents Messis, a webseries on the reconnection of humans to nature, accompanied by a platform giving access to behind the scenes of the creation and reflections behind the work. A rich artistic, scientific, and philosophical experience.