Shadowlight Artists: LUMINOUS
20/11/20 to 24/12/20 at Modern Art Oxford, Arts at the Old Fire Station, Oxford and online
Managed by Film Oxford, LUMINOUS is the latest project by the Shadowlight Artists, a group of seven artists with learning disabilities based in Oxfordshire, supported by Film Oxford and established in 2009.
Commencing in late summer 2019, the LUMINOUS project has come to be defined by the lockdown, which presented significant additional challenges to people with learning disabilities. As it started during the production phase of the project Film Oxford, the Shadowlight Artists and freelance professionals found new innovative ways to work collaboratively at a distance. They liaised with each artist’s family members and their support & care organisations to draw up individual plans, so the group’s production work could continue during the pandemic.
Animations have been created using drawings exchanged by mail; sculptural work has been created collaboratively via Skype; dance for camera has been transposed from the studio to the outdoors and art materials and paintings exchanged by courier.
A large part of the project has become about keeping in touch with the group. The artists are particularly at risk from social isolation as their normal lifestyle and social support is drastically reduced due to covid-19. For many, unable to leave their homes their art becomes a focus to draw comfort and pride from.
Most of work presented in this exhibition does not engage the COVID-19 crisis as a subject in itself, but instead underlies it as a sub-text due to the radically different working methods. The enforced experiment in distanced artistic collaboration has in reality opened up new possibilities for the future activities of the group, offering a pathway towards artists collaborations which are unlimited by geographical separation and also towards greater potential inclusion for disabled artists if given sufficient resources.
The work in this exhibition is diverse in media and subjects. Painting, photography, animation, dance for camera and sculptural installation all feature in the show, covering subjects from a personal relationship with the landscape to bullying. Some of the work looks back on the changing industrial landscape and to historical portraiture. Other work draws on a huge range of emotions from joy to sorrow, and from humour to exasperation. All of the work has in common that it represents an honest response to the day-to-day world from this unique group of artists.
Each Shadowlight artist worked with an artist established in their chosen medium to produce a new work :
- Wendy Belcher is making a film with artist Chris Oakley, her first solo project with the group
- Russell Highsmith is developing a new work with dramatist Mark Ralph-Bowman for future presentation
- Lucy Skuce worked with artist Chris Oakley to create a multimedia installation
- Richard Hunt worked with artist Sonia Boue on a new body of paintings
- Mark Hemsworth worked with photographer John Blythe on new photography work
- Danny Smith worked with choreographer Anna Watkins and Nicola Josse on a dance for camera piece and Cait Sweeney for painting work
- Tom Breach worked with Chris Oakley to create an animation
Luminous was principally funded by Arts Council England with additional financial support from St Michael & All Saints Charities and Oxford City Council. In order to ensure the sustainability of the group, fundraising efforts are ongoing to support the group’s future activities.