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A BEACON OF LIGHT
Changing Perceptions: Curator’s Insight
In this article, Matilda Sample, curator of Changing Perceptions: A Prison Art Exhibition, writes about the exhibition, which runs at Café 16 until 3 April.
Café 16 – based in the Cathedral Refectory – is open Monday-Saturday, 10am-4pm and is staffed by a team of prison leavers, led, trained and mentored by The Oswin Project.
The Oswin Project is delighted to present Changing Perceptions: A Prison Art Exhibition, which showcases a variety of art created within a criminal justice setting. This exhibition seeks to challenge people’s perceptions of prisons and prisoners to better understand their circumstances and individual capabilities. Prisoners and prison leavers experience prejudice and misjudgement and this is what Changing Perceptions hopes to counter.
The artworks address a broad range of themes from the physicality of environment and nature to the intangibility of abstraction, emotion and memory. These themes are represented through styles of abstraction, realism and surrealism and are composed of mediums and materials like textiles, paintings, sketching, printing and sculpture. The range of themes, styles and mediums reflect the individuality of each prisoner. Each piece establishes a strong sense of identity, something which is not accounted for within the criminal justice system. The plethora of art on display is a reminder that each prisoner is an individual, and everyone has a different story to tell.
Changing Perceptions is a creative insight into the criminal justice system. Many of these works are overwhelmingly positive and sometimes satirical, despite being created in particularly challenging times as prisons were experiencing 23-hour lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is humbling to see artworks that have been created under such circumstances which demonstrate the resilience of humanity.
Oswin’s ethos underpins Changing Perceptions in dissolving the societal boundaries between those who have been to prison and those who have not. As art is universal, it can be used to transgress between these boundaries, building towards a society more conducive to rehabilitation and reintegration.
Changing Perceptions has been a collaborative effort, working with charities and individuals inside and outside prisons to make it happen. The exhibition has been supported by Koestler Arts, Burnbake Trust, Prison Arts Project HMP Low Newton and HMP Northumberland who have supplied the artworks and understand the message and meaning that this exhibition has the opportunity to carry.