Art inspired by diversity at Unexpected Engagement

Published: Friday 12th January 2018 by Courtney Farrow

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Jason Wilsher-Mills has created his first solo show especially for Artlink. We caught up with the inspiring artist to find out more.

The impact of Jason’s Square Peg residency was felt citywide during Hull UK City of Culture 2017. He worked with Artlink and the disabled and diversity communities in Hull throughout the year, running a series of workshops and encouraging those who identify as disabled to tell their own stories through creativity.

Now, Jason has put together Unexpected Engagement: a series of stunning pieces that reflect on this residency.

The collection involves multimedia art that has been produced using state-of-the-art technology and can be interacted with during the exhibition.

As Hull’s oldest community arts organisation, Artlink was a natural choice to host Unexpected Engagement. Promoting equality of arts opportunities for all members of the community, the group firmly believes that everyone should have the chance to take part in cultural activities and a diverse range of art forms.

Hi, Jason. Can you tell us a little more about Unexpected Engagement?

When you arrive at the exhibition, you will see a range of characters, such as East Hull Elvis, The X-Factor Princess and Mario Lanza and the Stolen Hedge Trimmer. Each character is inspired by the disabled and diversity communities of Hull, who I have had the privilege to work with as part of my Square Peg residency throughout 2017.

The characters tell the narratives of those in the community who do not always have their voices heard. For example, the learning disabled and the homeless.

Using cutting-edge technology, such as augmented reality, 3D printing, sculptures and digital paintings in light boxes, I have taken their stories and created art. There is even specially designed wallpaper that I created for the exhibition space.

What was the inspiration behind Unexpected Engagement?

The amazing diversity and disabled communities of Hull. For instance, East Hull Elvis is inspired by a man with learning difficulties I met during one of my workshops. His life revolved around dressing up and performing as The King. This aspect of theatricality enabled him to be an extrovert and express himself. I thought this was beautiful.

It’s fabulous that you’re passionate about raising the profile of disabled artists. Why do you think it’s important?

As a disabled artist, I am passionate about giving those a voice who do not have one. We make great art and should be seen like other artists, and in the same galleries. We should also be afforded the same opportunities as able-bodied artists.

Lastly, why should people experience Unexpected Engagement?

You will see beautiful art, which tells beautiful stories from the incredible, hidden communities of Hull. This is their story and I am so proud to be able to share it finally. The exhibition is full of humour and colour and truly celebrates the people of Hull.

You can see Unexpected Engagement at Artlink Gallery until Friday 6 April. Meanwhile, find out more about the work of Jason Wilsher-Mills.

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Published: Friday 12th January 2018 by Courtney Farrow

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