AIDAN Shingler describes himself as a reality tester who, as result of an altered state of consciousness, is now using his artistic side as a campaign tool to highlight and raise awareness to the trauma psychiatric treatment can cause.

"My experience of schizophrenia was imbued with signs, symbolism, synchronicity and significance, and I wanted to communicate this and found that art was the best vehicle," said Aidan.

Only Smarties Have The Answer is Aidan's latest exhibition running at the Brewery Arts Centre's Warehouse Gallery until June 27.

It takes a fair old pop at the psychiatric system, done I have to say with good humour and a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek.

Nevertheless, he claims psychiatry is "control under the guise of care. It violates human rights routinely and systematically," he adds.

Three stays in a psychiatric hospital have given Aidan first hand experience and he's come out the other side better for it, or so he says: "I've had 14 periods of schizophrenia, which I don't regard as an illness. I wasn't a sufferer. I feel my life's been enriched by my experiences."

It all began in 1978 when, aged 19, he worked as a chef at South London's St George's Hospital, at Tooting.

One day he experienced a shift in consciousness, which changed the way he viewed reality.

He walked away from the job, released £10 notes in the London streets and headed back to his flat at Balham. Soon after, he was on Tooting Bec Common wrapped in a white sheet and eating an acorn from the tree of knowledge'.

His flatmates were worried about him his family then took him back to Birmingham where the clinical process started.

"Once I was dragged to a cell by six staff, pinned from behind to the floor, injected into the cheeks of each of my buttocks and left to recede into unconsciousness."

He tells me he experienced what's called Christ consciousness: "I didn't think I was Jesus but I seemed simply to perceive the divinity in all things.

"I'm not actually religious, but I embrace religions as having components and aspects of truth."

The Kendal arts centre show is a critical commentary on the nature of psychiatry and the white gallery walls give the whole place a clinical feel.

For instance, the Derbyshire-based reality tester's Butterfly piece has a hypodermic needle sticking into its abdomen, representing the way a fragile patient's spirit is broken rather than healed.

In 1985, Aidan started to create a body of work, which he called Beyond Reason, an exploration of schizophrenia in images and words.

The results were first shown as a visual arts exhibition at Carlisle's Mill Gallery as part of the UK Year of Visual Art 1996 celebrations. The work created a great deal of interest both regionally and nationally and over the next few years went on tour in the UK.

The Museum Of Modern Arts in Glasgow bought three pieces, which now form part of its prestigious permanent collection.

So much interest was shown both by the public, and, interestingly, the medical profession, that Aidan was asked to give talks to health practitioners.

And British mental Health organisation MIND presented Aidan with an award for his work in presenting schizophrenia in a positive way.

"Schizophrenia is commonly viewed as delusional and hopelessly negative. This view is simplistic and inaccurate. It denies the spiritual reality of the experience that has the potential to enhance creativity and develop the personality positively.

"It's a multi-dimensional state of being, which embraces, and is receptive to, the supernatural.

"For psychiatry to heal others it must first heal itself".