Shape Open 2013: Preview Night

So for those of you who have never ventured onto my ghost blog before (I call it this as it exists but not many people ever see it and you wouldn’t really know it’s there), you will be unaware that one of my pieces (in my With Me, Without Me series) was selected for this year’s Shape Open at London’s Nunnery Gallery.  I was overjoyed as an artist it’s always nice to get positive feedback for your work and as a disabled artist with a disabled child it is sometimes hard to access the opportunities that other’s take for granted.  Added to this I suffer from an anxiety disorder which means that I always feel that everything I do is rubbish five minutes after I do it and I then fear that everyone else thinks it secretly too.


On Thursday my husband and I headed up to London town for this year’s Shape Open preview.  I was trepadatious for two reasons: 1) It was the first time I had ever left both my small children with their Grandparents in Bournemouth overnight and 2) I am one of the artists featured in the exhibition.

My anxiety levels were raised even more when we were caught in really severe London traffic and had to make a major detour that took us all around greater London and the Rotherithe tunnel (n.b if you are of a claustrophobic disposition this is not somewhere you want to be).  Anyway after what seemed like an eternity we finally arrived.

If you have never been to The Nunnery, which not living in London (though I did live in London as an Undergrad) I had not been (apart from to drop off the work on Monday); it is a small gallery that forms part of the Bow Arts complex on the Bow Road just outside of Central London.  Its size was both a blessing and a curse, being small it was intimate and you could feel closer to the art work; however it also made getting around quite difficult, especially when it came to the prize giving and speeches.  Part of this was due to the popularity of the event; I was pleasantly surprised by the large turnout.  Disability is not seen as sexy and so does not often get centre stage like this, by opening up the Open to non-disabled as well as artists who class themselves as disabled, it allows disability to be seen as something that affects anyone and everyone and something which we all have an opinion on.

Despite the fact that there can only be one winner, I agreed with Shape Patron and one of the judges, distinguished artist Yinka Shonibare when he stated that he hated the idea of winners and prizes as he felt everyone in the exhibition was a winner and I am inclined to agree with him.  The work shown was of such high quality and so vastly different that it does seem  difficult to compare them.  However there was (isn’t there always) a winner and that was Eric Fong with his brilliant video piece, “Reflection 01″, this work examined the relationship between a healthy narcissism and acceptance of facial disfigurement; and the runner up was Katharine Armstrong’s “The Last Stand”, a sculptural piece fusing mobility aids with papier-mache and chicken wire.


Although I have mentioned the winners above, my personal favourites (outside of my own of course, wink wink) were  ”Bandaged” by Maria Constantinou; Vivi-Mari Carpelan’s “Your Indifference is Breaking my Heart”; James Lake’s “Entitlement – Series Number 1″; Bekki Perriman’s “Picking Holes” and Ivan Riches’ “Exploration”.  But the piece that made the biggest impression on me was Jenni-Juulia Wallinheimo-Heimonen’s “Welcome Anomaly, part 2″, this piece featured utilised a mannequin and various other pieces all assembled in a confronting and powerful way to examine the misconception that all parents would view disability in a child as a tragedy,  as she states: “…After all, the biological purpose of reproduction is to transfer and copy the genome of two individuals………………..”.


My personal favourites in no way affect how amazing the other work was and to be honest I liked them all in different ways, but it would take me forever to mention all of the pieces.

The only negative aspect was that due to the size and popularity I found myself invisible; the irony of the situation Is not lost on me (large wheelchair, work focused around disability) but I actually had seeing people walking into me, hearing people not reacting when I asked them to move politely many times (my husband had to move them in the end) and even one other lady in a wheelchair got annoyed with me when I was accidentally in her way.  That is the sad thing about disability, that even in a room where there are more disabled people than you would find normally and where disability is being explored, you can still find yourself feeling inconsequential.

If you were unable to get down to the preview on Thursday night then I suggest you try and get down there before the 20th October to catch it and if you’re interested you might want to check me out too (I’m number 22 btw).

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