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Feisty Artists Get Visible


31 July 2014

Guest Blogger: David Paul Jobling

I believe a majority of people don’t think about art because it doesn’t get promoted or seen as often as it should, compared to sports, for example. I think the same is true about disability and the work of disabled artists!

I wish someone would remind broadcasters and commentators on television, in radio and print that arts are actually ‘social media’ and that they’ve been around much longer than Instagram or Facebook. The same is true of disabled artists. We’re all over the place, yet our work faces the same barriers as we do. It gets overlooked when it needs to be looked at. Can you tell if a painting has been painted by a Deaf person? Do all paintings by disabled artists look the same?

One valuable lesson I brought home from my participation in Access2Arts’ Armature program was how necessary it is to be visible and easy to approach. From August 2013 until July 2014, Armature program artists have been meeting regularly, attending exhibitions, discussing how we create our own work and meeting a terrific range of mentors who have been very generous with their knowledge and skills.

As a very mixed group of disabled artists we’ve been able to talk about how we and view art. I certainly know more now than I did at the start of the program. A common thing we all face are barriers to participating in creative opportunities. We are a feisty group so we’re smashing through that particular barrier by being seen on equal terms. As a group of artists we have taken the opportunity to be part of the global, participatory ‘Inside Out’ project and exhibit our contribution during the South Australian Living Arts Festival, SALA.

The ‘Inside Out’ project brings art out onto the street in an exciting way. We appear in portraits that have been taken in front of the old inner-spring of a mattress. The inner-spring could be interpreted in many ways; I think of it as the armature, the supporting framework a sculptor uses when building a sculpture. The program we have been doing is named after that framework. I like seeing the idea support of Armature (the program) visible in the background in our portraits. It speaks to me.

Visibility for any artist is difficult to get. For visual artists, writers, film makers, designers, performing artists and so on, experiencing disability have the added barriers to this visibility. How are perceived by the general public? How is their work seen? How, where, why and when is it seen? And when it is seen how is it viewed?

Through the Armature exhibition we encourage everyone to look at us face to face on our terms and if you think we look good (which we do) you should see our work!

Find out more about the Armature Portrait Paste-up exhibition on the Events page.

David Jobling is a writer, actor, director and visual artist. He has been a participant in the 2013/14 Armature program, part of the team that have produced the Spoke Word Festival, and is an avid tweeter.