The RBSA has been working with national disability charity Sense to research and deliver new modes of art engagement involving people with complex disabilities.
A mentoring project took place this summer and will culminate in the Making Together: Mentor Programme exhibition in September, showcasing the work of RBSA artists and Sense art-makers.
The exhibition will showcase work made by Sense art-makers Yiannis and Marteena as a result of one-to-one mentor sessions with professional artists Annette Pugh ARBSA and Karoline Rerrie.
Annette Pugh spoke to ART BLOG about how her own art practice informed her mentoring work at Sense TouchBase Pears – Sense’s pioneering community hub in Selly Oak, Birmingham…
I have been working one-to-one with Yiannis to encourage and enhance the experience and diversity of making art.
The work is about much more than just the production of exhibition-quality work. It involves the development of a significant understanding of Yiannis’s needs and desires, combined with a practical and considered approach as to how process and experimentation can enhance the tactile and sensory experience.
It also questions my role and approach to making work, as the project is dependent on collaboration between the support workers, Yiannis and myself as the facilitator.
Recently I have been asked specifically about how my own practice informs my mentoring and when picking apart this question I have discovered that there are key elements to my professional experience as both an educator and as a painter and photographer, which impact on my choices for work with Sense.
Having recently exhibited film and photography work in Wanderlust, an exhibition at Argentea Gallery in Birmingham, I would like to think that the way in which I record, process and compose imagery is significant.
My own work has a strong narrative quality. I work with archive imagery and touch on issues surrounding the working classes, loneliness, leisure and collective memory.
But for Sense, this context is put to one side and my much deeper understanding of process and materials enables me to develop work that provides a positive and challenging experience. This practical approach, however, is also underpinned by my knowledge of art history and contemporary making.
In our first session, images from bold, abstract paintings and the decorative arts have been dominant, forming the starting point for collages and touch sensitive digital paintings. The work of Terry Winters, Christine Streuli, Brice Marden and others – full of energy, layering and play – has been influential.
I am hoping that my long-term love of these images will be passed on in the work we produced over the sessions.
But I am also conscious that the Sense experience is organic and that the work often grows and changes direction in order to accommodate the specific needs and likes of those involved.
Everything is based upon collaboration and negotiation and therefore, unlike in my own work where I am the sole creator, in this instance I am part of a team.
Nevertheless, it is evident even from the initial session just how much I draw upon my own experiences of painting, photography and contextual studies to inform and plan the direction of the mentoring project.
Find out more about Annette’s work and don’t miss the next articles on our project with Sense, which will provide insights from art-makers and support workers.
In addition to the mentor sessions and exhibition in September, RBSA’s work with Sense also includes a shop project, which will take place from August until January 2020. Artists Robert Hamp and Andrea Hannon will be going out to Sense charity shops to gather donations that will be turned into a sculpture by a Sense art-maker back at Sense TouchBase Pears.
More about our work with Sense
RBSA and Sense are working together this year on a project called Making Together, which is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
The project involves making and showcasing original artwork co-produced by RBSA artists and Sense art-makers. Sense supports people with complex disabilities, including deafblindness, and believes no one should be left out, isolated, or unable to explore their potential. Find out more about Sense.
Richard Kramer, Chief Executive of Sense, said: ‘We want disabled people’s achievements to be more visible and celebrated in their local communities. We believe the arts have a particular importance for disabled people who communicate differently; they offer all of us the opportunity to focus on how a person uses their senses and non-verbal communication to experience and connect to the world.’
All images: Annette Pugh
The Making Together project is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. We would also like to thank the Grimmitt Trust for their support of our work with Sense.