Yinka Shonibare Hosts Shape Open Exhibition

An exhibition encouraging artists to express life through the lens of disability is on show at Yinka Shonibare’s Guest Projects Space in Hackney.

Shonibare MBE, a Goldsmiths graduate who is the patron of Shape Arts, is hosting its annual Open exhibition with the theme ‘My Life’. The aim is to encourage both disabled and non-disabled artists to ‘meet and merge, clash, combine and generally exchange views and ideas about areas which are often sidelined within artistic debate’.

Artist Justin Piccirilli- Stone of stumbling, rock of offence. Pic: Shape Arts

Artist Justin Piccirilli- Stone of stumbling, rock of offence. Pic: Shape Arts

Using an exciting range of mediums such as blood, machinery and modified everyday objects to express their ideas, the artists drew on memory, nostalgia and processes of internal reflection to explore the complexity of this year’s theme.

The final artworks were carefully selected for the exhibition by a panel of judges including Yinka Shonibare himself, Shape Open Prize Winner 2014 Carly Jayne, Shape Chief Executive Tony Heaton OBE and Open coordinator Ben Fredericks.

Shonibare commented: “I decided on ‘My Life’ as – quite literally – an ‘open’ brief for the Shape Open 2015, in order to allow the artists to freely explore the theme. In context of an ever-hanging society, I felt that it was important to encourage reflection on the lives of disabled people and create an honest and wide-ranging discussion about the barriers that we face.”

Shonibare was a Turner prize nominee in 2004 and the same year was awarded the decoration of Member of the “Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”. He has added this title to his professional name. In 2013 he was elected Royal Academician by the Royal Academy of Arts.

What makes this exhibition’s idea special is its connection to Yinka himself as a disabled person. At the age of eighteen, Yinka contracted transverse myelitis, which is inflammation of the spinal cord, and at one point was left with complete paralysis. Little did people know, Yinka tricked his brain into making parts of his body work and focused on bettering his health by not worrying about his looks and focusing on his skills and personality from the inside.

Despite being in a wheelchair, Yinka’s optimism and motivation kept him going and admirers thought his artwork grew more beautiful. He is an inspiration to others, mainly those with disabilities, and seen as proof that regardless of our difficulties, we decide how well we live, and we decide if we are going to stop ourselves from moving on or not. He has chosen to focus on what he loves to do most and work on that, which is his love of art.

Maxwell Rushton - inside #1. Pic: Shape Arts

Maxwell Rushton – inside #1. Pic: Shape Arts

Yinka Shonibare MBE worked at Shape for 6 years, then used his experiences to build up his own talent and career despite being disabled, and has become known worldwide. CEO Tony Heaton said: “We create this exhibition to encourage artists to think about their work and to think about exhibiting their work, and to put their work up for to be critiqued.”

He adds: “Shape has been going for 40 years. Ever since we started we have been breaking down barriers and trying to encourage disabled people and disabled artists to take part in culture and to be the best artist they can possibly be.”

The free exhibition at Guest Projects in Andrews Street, close to Regent’s Canal, opened on Thursday February 4 and runs until Sunday February 21.

Twitter handle: @JudeJweihan

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