'Art in the Aftermath' showcases how painting can be therapeutic.
An art exhibition showcasing the bravery of British soldiers who served in Afghanistan has opened in Gloucester city centre.
'Art in the Aftermath' is a gallery that aims to honour the armed forces by showcasing the artwork of servicemen and how art can help trauma to be processed.
The gallery displays work created by ex-servicemen who turned to art in order to deal with trauma and process their memories from the war.
Emma Willis, who had the idea for the exhibition, says that the response so far has been "amazing."
It is presented by Gloucestershire charity ‘Style For Soldiers’ which was set up by local menswear designer Emma Willis, to provide clothing for injured military personnel.
Several veterans’ short films will be screened, including former Royal Engineer and triple amputee Matt Weston’s short film ‘For Love of Words’ starring Style for Soldiers ambassador Charles Dance.
Emma told Gloucestershire Live: "The response so far in Gloucester has been really fantastic”.
"We've opened today and we have had a flow of people all day long.”
- Art in the Aftermath exhibit at King's Walk
Emma came up with the concept for the exhibition after meeting hundreds of injured personnel while visiting Headley Court Military Hospital to make complimentary clothing and saw those who have turned to art and poetry to help with the psychological healing process.
"I discovered that a lot of the injured servicemen were turning to the arts for their own therapy, such as painting and film."
- Emma Willis in the Exhibit
"I thought if they could have a career doing what gives you peace of mind, that would be the ideal situation."
She continued: "It is very moving - a lot of people have connections with family in the forces and it's very eye opening for young people as well.
"I'm very hopeful that we're going to have a wonderful flow of people for the next three months."
Emma has her own menswear clothing label and frequently tailors clothing specifically for ex-servicemen who may have lost limbs and been otherwise affected by conflict.
- Tailor Emma Willis fits bespoke shirts for injured soldiers at Headley Court Hopsital
One of the artists whose work is shown in the exhibition is Stewart Hill, an ex-serviceman who has created portraits of famous figures who also support the charity and the cause.
Stewart turned to art several years ago after suffering a brain injury in Helmand, Afghanistan in 2009.
The injury was caused by the impact of a bomb explosion, where shrapnel came through to become embedded in his skull.
Stewart still has two pieces of shrapnel embedded in his brain from the incident, which caused him to retain brain injuries from the blast.
- Stewart Hill in Afghanistan
The injury caused his cognitive functions to slow, meaning he found it difficult to organise and plan things in his head.
However, he says that through the medium of art he has been able to process his emotions better and exercise his brain functions so that his cognitive process has improved.
Stewart has also written poetry and become a motivational speaker, expressing his own emotions through his art and allowing his work to speak for itself.
- Stewart Hill with his art
He says: "The theme of the exhibition is hugely accessible for everyone”.
"Painting gave me to ability to use the emotive part of my brain which then improved the part that was damaged, there was two pieces of shrapnel."
Also showcasing their work is 34-year-old Dougie Adams, who was injured in an IED attack in Afghanistan and sees art as a means of distraction and "escaping" his memories from the war.
- Dougie Adams turned to painting as therapy
"I painted the countryside around where I live instead of scenes from the war.”
"I just wanted pure escapism from the thoughts I was having."
Another of the artists, Martin Wade, was medically discharged in 2015 following his diagnosis of PTSD in 2010 some three years after his return from Afghanistan.
During a lengthy stay in a German psychiatric hospital, he was encouraged to paint as part of a holistic approach to his therapy, where he "found a way to express creatively things he could not express in words."
The exhibition is open to the public Tuesday to Saturday 11am until 5pm until December 21. Entry is free and families with children are welcome.