MGM 2003 - Same As You? Disabled Artists In Glasgow

By Mark McLaughlin | 02 June 2003
Shows Calvay Dome by Edward Henry.

Left: Calvay Dome by Edward Henry.

Mark McLaughlin made for Glasgow to take a look at an extraordinary exhibition.

Following their successful children's show at the Kelvingrove Galleries earlier this year, Glasgow's Project Ability presents Art Trek: The Same As You? at the Centre For Developmental Arts until June 27.

It showcases the work of five artists from the Project Ability workshop, for artists with mental disabilities such as autism and asbergers.

In April 2002 Art Trek was awarded a grant by the Glasgow City Council to explore the themes contained in the Scottish Executives learning disability review 'The Same As You?'

It is exhibition of extreme contrasts, presenting familiar images through the eyes of those where even the familiar can seem strange, sometimes scary and often exciting.

Shows Gang Fight by Edward Henry.

Right: Gang Fight by Edward Henry.

Exercises in mass-media such as Steven Reilly's rendering of transportation via an illustrated website, and John Cocozza's linear postcard series of his family tree, once again remind us of the beauty and simplicity inherent in the eyes of the disabled artist.

Tommy Mason illustrates the paradox of 'The Same As You?' by presenting us with a fascinating 10-foot tall house of cards.

"I chose to paint cards because it was something different - something I haven't done before," said Tommy. "I go to a club in Possil and we play cards every Wednesday. Playing cards is my hobby."

The cards illustrate the relationship of his disabled life with the passions of non-disabled people. By inflating this very ordinary hobby to a massive scale, his talent and ambition has driven him to achieve more than most people can be bothered to.

Shows House of Cards by Tommy Mason.

Left: House of Cards by Tommy Mason.

How many 'ordinary' people take time to appreciate a work of art, never mind create one?

The contrasts between same and different, more and less, is explored further in the work of Edward Henry.

"The topic I selected is the area where I stay, where I have been living for six years," said Edward. "Before that I was living with my parents in Baillieston. Living by myself is good - it gives me a lot of independence."

Edward's 'Gang Fight' articulates one of the foremost fears of living alone - urban violence. Moreover, it is as a metaphor for how perceived differences can have the same underlying character.

Upon the backdrop of a fiery yellow sky, four silhouettes stand brandishing knives and bottles. Below the horizon, another gang has been scratched into the upper layer of paint, so the flaming backdrop shines through.

Shows Oooh Matron by Cameron Morgan.

Right: Oooh Matron by Cameron Morgan.

This could be seen as a perfect clash of differences; light against darkness. However, the irony of most gang fights is that the opposing forces often have a lot more similarities than differences.

Their clothes, personalities and interests make gang members almost indistinguishable from the opposition.

To use a local analogy, football gangs share a common interest in the beautiful game. Consequently, just as rival gangs come together during a World Cup, 'The Same As You?' breaks down the social opposition of 'able' and 'disabled' into one communal spirit.

However, Cameron Morgan shows that reality can be very different, facing up to society's traditional means of social segregation - Institutionalisation.

Shows Hospital Nag by Cameron Morgan.

Left: Hospital Nag by Cameron Morgan.

Cameron grew up in an institution, but rather than reacting against it in the name of unity, he pokes fun with titles such as 'Hospital Nag' and 'Oooh Matron, You Are Awful - But I Like You'.

In 'Oooh Matron…', Cameron's style of presenting light and shadow in the faces of the children as bold contrasting colours, rather than subtle shading, can be seen to represent the duality of the institution.

By nurturing the children in a separate environment, institutions allow them to grow up in an environment they can identify with, while ultimately preparing them for wider social interaction - represented here by the nurse standing at the doorway.

This is the ultimate goal of Project Ability. The workshops provide a common environment to nurture artistic ability, so that the artists can finally emerge and express their talented and vibrant personalities to the world at large.

Reviewer Mark McLaughlin is participating in the 24 Hour Museum / Museum and Galleries Month Arts Writing Prize.

Shows Museums and Galleries Month logo.
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