Oh my ears and whiskers, I am so behind with everything. I meant to blog about the Koestler Trust Art By Offenders show long before now, and suddenly I've found that it's ending in a week! If you're in London, take a look - it's free, and it's in the gallery at the bottom of the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank, SE1.
The Koestler Trust is a charity which in its own words, is all about "inspiring offenders to take part in the arts, work for achievement and transform their lives". Their website here is very interesting, I've realised. I had never really looked into what they did before.
Anyway the picture above is called "Lowry on Prozac" and I love it - it's so full of humour and life.
I was impressed by this detailed and striking piece of textile art. It is called "Tribal Nations" and its maker, William Andrew Ross, of HM Prison Channings Wood, Devon, says that he has been developing his art skills for 25 years, in various media. They include oils, sculpture, graphics, 3-D computer modelling and animation. He hopes to make a living when he gets out. He is obviously a talented craftsman as he has won the Worshipful Company of Weavers Silver Award for this piece, and he didn't even mention textiles in his list of crafts!
The work on display isn't only by prisoners. It's also by people in secure mental hospitals, and people who are confined in deportation centres, like this haunting photo (below) by Mukhtar Noor from the Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre.
I found this one rather touching. It's called "Walking Away from the Rain" by Leroy Francis of HM Prison Stafford. He wrote "I thought how walking in the rain is generally considered a miserable experience, full of grey, black and muddy brown colours. I wanted to recall the memory of walking in the rain as a child. It was a happy, fun experience, and I decided to portray this by using bright, happy colours." And indeed he has, but the person in the photo has his back to us, and is walking away.
I thought the picture below was very striking - at first I was imagining it as a variation on Edvard Munch's "The Scream" but then I laughed when I saw the title, which is "No Chips Again!" The artist, Pedro Murray, of HM Prison Wandsworth, was making a point about prison food.
One of the weirdest and most striking of the pictures was called "Cognitive Distortive Reality" by Anon. His picture has won him a painting scholarship. I can't reproduce it large enough but it is full of peculiar detail - on one side of the prisoner all is well, on the other side, all is NOT well with the same people
A mirror is supplied so you can read some of the back-to-front writing. Here's a detail:
There is more than a touch of surrealism in this ironic sculpture, showing a dog as a judge, riding on a horse which is both a clock and a lamp. It's called "Sitting Proud" by Peter Thomas, of Merseyside Probation Service. An extraordinary, eye catching piece by a talented craftsman - I wonder what the story is behind it.
My favourite picture was powerful and disturbing. I'm sorry I didn't get a decent photo of it - there is a line of light reflecting off the glass. It's also by Anon, but I would say that this image is the work of a really gifted artist, whoever he is. I would absolutely not like to meet the character portrayed here, because you can see exactly what sort of a person he must be. As the artist says, "See the paint roar!"
After looking at these, and many other excellent works, I thought about the people who created them and their locked up lives. I don't know what they have done, but I'll find out more about the Koestler Trust, anyway. And I left the exhibition, feeling very glad to be free, and walked the few steps to look at the Thames at Festival Pier
and felt very grateful that I could be out and about in a great place like London on a nice autumn evening.
Art by Offenders is on at the Southbank Centre till 20 November 2011.