The 2018 Koestler Trust exhibition: I’m still here.

This was the second Koestler Trust exhibition I have visited and the exhibits never cease to amaze me: from the surreal to the predictable, all had their surprises.

The pieces which struck me most and for different reasons were:

The Time is now by Sukhmani.  Arbury Court (secure mental health unit) Mixed media.
Disconnected: Peter HMP Dovegate. Oil on canvas. “My earliest memories of prison are the anxiety felt behind the door, having told your child/loved one that you will ring them only to find association is cancelled along with access to the prison phones on the wing.” (Exhibited artist)
Letter. C-print (No name given)
Positivity: Tray. HMP Wakefield.”I was going through the parole process – even though it was rejected I chose to do something positive.”(Exhibited artist)
AAAAARGH! Michael. Bolton Probation Office


Flower Power 1.  Robert. St Andrew’s Healthcare Northampton (secure mental health unit) Photography: digital print on paper.

What did I take away about the work?

The quantity, variety, originality and proficiency on display were astounding.  Yes, people in prison have more time on their hands than most people not in prison have to think, reflect and make and develop ideas, but viewers have to leave inspired by something on display or reflect on what is there and what it can tell them of those inside.  This exhibition differed greatly from the one curated by Anthony Gormley in 2017.  The biggest difference was in the greater number of recorded pieces and in the subjects involved. Last year there was a larger number of exhibits depicting violence than there is this year.  It was interesting to note that the 2018 exhibition was curated by the prisoners’ families.

What did I take away about me?

Because of the nature of my project, I was intrigued to see how many of the exhibits referenced letters home which I was not so aware of last year.  I was also aware that I was drawn to the use of colour in how the exhibition was curated.  This year, the whole exhibition had a calmness about it.   It was in the same location, using the same lighting system, the same use of vitrines along the middle to show 3D pieces but, somehow, it was a lot calmer.  I asked myself what was it in the curation that produced this meditative atmosphere?  I felt the same, but in a negative way, when I saw Trevor Paglen’s exhibit at Arts Mundi 8, in Cardiff 2 days later.  In the Koestler Trust exhibition I think the calmness was due to the absence of all the violence that, in my recollection, had been dominant in 2017.











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