Skip to main content


Sara Rees detail

ATTIC was a contemporary art project and gallery space in Cardiff dedicated to exploring personal, cultural and scientific understandings of the mind with a particular focus on the spectrum of mental health and mental illness.

The ATTIC project was conceived with no agenda other than to provide an impartial platform and opportunity for encounters, dialogue and creative expression from a variety of perspectives.

A matter of perspective

Located in the third floor attic space of a building accessible by an unmarked side entrance, the private and 'hard to reach' aspect of ATTIC complemented the historically taboo nature of the subject matter.

The project was supported by the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics at Cardiff University and the Arts Council of Wales.

Watch a video record of the project.

Watch an overview of the ATTIC projec

Explore images from the project

ATTIC was co-founded and curated by two artists, Julia Thomas and Sara Annwyl. Concerned with dialogue, reciprocity and negotiations of disclosure, their personal art practices embody much of the central concerns of the organisation.

The term ‘mental illness’ is hemmed in with cliché and narrow association, while actually its connotations are profound.

Julia Thomas & Sara Annwyl ATTIC co-founders
Growth by Susan Adams

An exhibition at CardiffATTIC. An exhibition of untempered growth, leakages, ruptures and penetrations, stimulating questions about the way in which we seek to make sense of that which surrounds us and, at times, invades us. A jarring of the natural and the man-made, of fantasy and reality.

The Whole Shebang by Amy O'Driscoll

Porcelain shelters from the exhibition at CardiffATTIC. An exploration of the private and the public, concepts of shelter, of fragility and expectations of perfection.

Matrolinous by Gail Howard

A residency at CardiffATTIC. Matrolinous was a re-enactment of a family tradition, passed down through the maternal line, to explore familial narrative and mythology. Like the traditions, rituals and stories within families, our genetic traits are passed on and affect future generations

Remnants from a collaborative performance by Golden BELE

Taking the text of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman as a starting point, Elen Mai Wyn Jones and Beth Greenhalgh of Golden BELE explored ideas of restriction and of the human need to be creative.

Section from Big Science I by Julia Thomas

Symbolic of the many participants, blood samples and data records required for large scale psychiatric genomic studies, the painting reflected a collective mass whilst acknowledging the role of the individual. Thomas is interested in art as a process for initiating conversation.

Picking up the Pieces by Paddy Faulkner

From the exhibition Rapid Response at CardiffATTIC. Words selected and taken out of context from websites and blogs related to mental illness, the jigsaw was a response to the idea of 'missing pieces'. The jigsaw and its accompanying mental health 'jokes' focused on stereotypes and myths, our gaps in understanding, and the impact of mental health language.

Consciousness, spirituality, neurology, genetics and genomics, biology, statistics, psychology, psychiatry, counselling, politics, history, and the wider and fluctuating culturally constructed notions of the self are all aspects of the territory represented by the terms ‘mental health’ and ‘mental illness’.

Julia Thomas & Sara Annwyl ATTIC co-founders
Institutional Blue by Paul Whittaker

From the exhibition Rapid Response at CardiffATTIC. Institutional Blue is a film piece and installation that attempts to explore the voyeur in all of us. The work also comments on how, if we only see a snapshot of someone’s life, we can only imagine the story of their world.

cystal by Richard Huw Morgan

From the residency Cystal at CardiffATTIC. Traumatic life events that are revisited, re-interrogated and re-imagined become a possible route to resolution or persisting psychological pre-occupation.

The Explorers by Sara Rees

From the exhibition Lacuna at CardiffATTIC. Lacuna was an exploration of how memories constitute the narratives through which we construct our sense of self. Our 'story' is represented in many ways such as through personal narratives, family narratives, medical narratives, and community narratives.

MARGiN by Simon L Read

"While attending the MARGiN creative and reflective writing meetings at ATTIC, I found it situationally unfortunate that we were located above an off-license – particularly given the influence that alcohol can have on mental health issues." Simon L. Read

Polar Exploration by Victoria J. E. Jones

Using the attic as a metaphor for rationality and clarity of mind, Polar Exploration was devised as a space of contemplation to enable people to feel mentally transported. Jones is interested in making work that feels positive and uplifting.

The ATTIC space

Located in the third floor attic space of a building accessible by an unmarked side entrance, the private and 'hard to reach' aspect of ATTIC complemented the historically taboo nature of the subject matter.

What is the relationship between private and public spaces?

Social Scientist Dr Jamie Lewis explores the meaning behind architecture, looking specifically at the relationship between the Hadyn Ellis Building and the ATTIC project.

Dr Jamie Lewis discusses the project.


ATTIC has now come to an end, with the previously disused attic space now being utilised by the mental health charity that occupies the rest of the building. You can read more at the ATTIC website.