Koestler Trust Exhibition at the South Bank Centre

On Sunday 4th November I caught the last day of the Koestler Trust Exhibition at the South Bank Centre in London. It’s my third year in a row and I am always amazed at the talent, creativity and originality of the artworks. All pieces are made by prisoners, youth offenders or mental health patients and it’s wonderful to see how these people are using art to express their emotions, experience, interests, passions and opinions. It is an emotional experience seeing first hand how time, materials, tuition, support and opportunity can ‘bring out’ such incredible paintings, drawings, prints, crafts, sculptures and recordings and in turn improve prisoners or patients mental health and wellbeing. We were given a fantastic tour by an ex-offender called Christopher who was so engaging, funny and warm. He has an obvious love of art and really believes in what creativity can do for the soul. His fresh interpretation of the selected works and choice of language made the tour accessible for everyone.

Christopher said that this piece, which was the most colourful and vibrant in the exhibition, is a reflection of all prisoners love of nature. Apparently inmates are always transfixed by nature documentaries (especially those narrated by David Attenborough like Blue Planet) because it’s something that everyone misses. He said ‘we’re all human’ and no matter what your past is we can’t escape the fact that we are all animals and we all have a connection with one another and the natural world. His particular favourite was a show about Meerkats! Nature and art are something can brings us all back to the same place. Documentaries transport inmates to another world outside of the prison or hospital walls – a temporary escape.

I’m Still Here

A drawing by a mother of her with her children because she misses them so much. I loved this piece – such a beautiful use of pastels to give us an insight into one of her most treasured memories. The marks are sensitive, bold and dynamic. It’s drawn in quite a child-like naive style. So emotive.

A collaborative piece by a group of young people. The many faces of mental health disorders, split personality, schizophrenia, anger, paranoia…A showcase of these young people’s creativity, skill, teamwork and original ideas. I thought this would be a fantastic image to show the medical humanities students in February. An example of 3D characters but also characters that communicate/represent different health topics.

One of my favourite pieces from the exhibition – there is so much integrity in the mark making and the soft colours and contours are evocative of sand dunes or the human body. Again, an intimate and sensitive piece of art.

I’d love to try using embroidery hoops to create artwork for my exhibition in April. Perhaps with typography, birds or eggs on them using embroidery stitches and felting techniques.

I thought this piece would be a great example for a future workshop – photocopying the same drawing 25 times and then using different styles and media to manipulate the image in a sort of metamorphosis.

Another idea for a workshop? Abstracting part of a scene and keeping the main focus realistic. I love the simple unrealistic colours and shapes of the tree in contrast with the squirrel.

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