Belfast Telegraph

Ex-RUC man’s art draws on trauma of the Troubles

By Greald Lennon

A retired RUC officer has used the trauma he experienced during the Troubles to create a series of oil-based paintings as part of an art exhibition in Belfast.

The Pieces exhibition by Brian Wallace (61) from Carrickfergus features more than 40 original paintings inspired by and rooted in therapeutic processes.

The father-of-two has used art to try and heal his own mental illness while depicting trauma through his art.

He said: "I found doing paintings of incidents I was involved in very difficult at the time.

"People don't want to talk about mental illness, and they don't want to talk about the Troubles either.

"It's contentious and people rightly want to forget about it and move on, but sometimes you can't, especially if you've experienced it and lived through it."

Brian studied Fine Art at university in 1980 and later that year he joined the police, right before the Maze hunger strikes started.

During his early career as a police officer, he was stationed at Woodburn police station in west Belfast, and within his first six months on duty, three of Brian's colleagues were killed in separate incidents.

One of his paintings depicts the death of a colleague, who was killed by a rocket launcher along the Suffolk Road in 1981.

Due to his experiences, Brian developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress as a result of psychological shock.

He tried to battle it with cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling, but said that neither worked for him.

After completing a Masters art course in Belfast, Brian was able to receive four years of intense art-psychotherapy.

"I gradually stumbled upon art therapy, which helped me address what was causing my PTSD," he said.

"Depression goes hand in hand with PTSD and depression is really hard to get out of, and I managed that as well."

Brian lost his mother to cancer in 2010 and revealed that a section of his gallery is a way to honour her and how he coped with that loss.

Brian is now a qualified therapist, and for the last year he has been working with a charity called Koram based in Strabane, which offers therapeutic intervention and psychosocial support.

Here he works with children who have attachment and behavioural difficulties.

"There is still a stigma with attitudes around mental health. Working on this exhibition has helped me look back and gave me a new lease of life," he added.

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