Exiled artists come to terms with torture

Art by Uvindu Kurukulasuriya Pic: Helen Crane

An exhibition of art created by refugees who have survived torture has gone on display at Brick Lane.

The show, on display at the Loading Bay Gallery until Monday, is entitled “Thirty-six Pounds and Twenty-nine Pence”, the amount of money an asylum seeker is given by the UK government each week.

“These people are basically living their lives in poverty, and lots of people don’t know about it,” said Marika Chaplais, events fundraiser for Freedom from Torture, the charity hosting the exhibition.

As well as providing medical and legal support, Freedom from Torture helps to rehabilitate victims through therapies such as gardening, music and art. The artists on show are all part of the charity’s Open Art Studio project, which provided a collective space for their clients to create their work.

One of the artists on show is Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, 41, an award-winning journalist and freedom of expression activist who was forced to flee his home country of Sri Lanka after publishing anti-government articles.

“Since I joined the studio in 2009 I have met people from all over the world who have suffered torture,” he said.

“Many people think torture is just physical, but it is also mental. Art can help us to understand people’s feelings and emotions.”

One of his pieces, ‘Guernica to Mulathiere’, is a recreation of Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ reimagined within the context of the last Sri Lankan conflict. “Thousands of people were killed, and there is no human rights organisation there,” Kurukulasuriya said. “Picasso had a bulb [at the top of the painting], but I have broken the bulb. I want people to know what is going on.”

Kurukulasuriya is now in the process of planning a solo exhibition of his work for next year.

The work of many of the artists featured in the show is to be sold along with donated works by big-name artists including Jake & Dinos Chapman, Antony Gormley and Julian Opie at a fundraising auction on Monday. “The art world have rallied around us,” Chaplais said, adding that their clients were “so proud” to be showing their own work.

There will also be events at the Loading Bay Gallery throughout the week, including a performance night and pop-up shop. For more information see www.freedomfromtorture.org/art.

One Response

  1. Helen Nickols November 25, 2011

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