I am a blind wheelchair user.
I never assume I can get into an art gallery or exhibition
I never assume I can access the contents of an art gallery
I never assume artists will think about how their art will be experienced by me
I never assume art will “work” for me
I never assume I can get to an art workshop
I research everywhere I want to go
I research everything I want to engage with
This is my normal
But it's not normal
It's exclusive, alienating and frustrating
Art should be accessible to everyone
To experience, enjoy and critique
To learn, practice and create
Does art work?
Only for some
These two pieces of art were exhibited at The Old Fire Station Gallery in Henley on Thames at the Reading Guild of Artists 91st Annual Summer Exhibition
(Friday 22nd July until Tuesday 2nd August). Invisible went on to be awarded a special mention for 3D works and sculptures.
Entry was free to everyone. However..... As a wheelchair user I found it impossible to get into the gallery. This inaccessibility was the inspiration behind my two pieces of art. I'm thankful to the RGA, especially Linda Saul and Trish Roberts, for their encouragement of my concept and passion about access to the arts.
Part One - Invisible
Invisible was awarded a special mention in the Pauline Mercier Award.
Invisible is a 3d printed mandala, mounted on a circular 30cm canvas; all painted in black. The mandala represents the barriers to access found everywhere disabled people try to go.
You can touch this piece.
Yes, really, I invite you to touch this piece.
Close your eyes and feel with your fingers.
What do you notice!
What shapes can you feel?
Can you picture it in your mind?
Can you can draw what you feel? Does that make the Invisible Visible?
There is another part to this piece of art, can you find it?
Part Two - Invisible Visible
Invisible Visible is a digital painting. It is the visual version of the tactile piece. The mandala design is painted over an abstract representation of Henley, again in a 30cm circle.
You are looking down on a light blue body of water, darker blue at the edges, which meanders across an abstract circle of browns, greens, reds and creams. The calm of the River Thames is in sharp contrast to the busy townscape of Henley.
Floating above, is an octagonal mandala in brick red, with highlights in cream and shadows in brown.
Perhaps this is a compass, pointing in eight directions.
Perhaps it is a building, with hard edges and sharp rooflines.
Perhaps it is a set of steps, blocking access.
Perhaps it is a blueprint for accessible design.
I wonder ....
Did you see "Invisible Visible" as you entered the gallery?
Did you notice that "Invisible Visible" wasn't visible inside the gallery?
Did you touch "Invisible"?
How did it feel to touch "Invisible" as a piece of art in a gallery?
Could you picture "Invisible" in your mind when you touched it?
Did you realise that "Invisible" and "Invisible Visible" are the same?
Access the audio description at this link