Disabled and neurodivergent artists’ work showcased at galleries

Image caption, Visual artist Kitty Kaur created a sensory installation inspired by Jason Tilley’s memories

  • Author, Vanessa Pearce
  • Role, BBC News, West Midlands

Paintings, prints and poetry have gone on display at a contemporary art studio set up to support neurodivergent and disabled artists.

The work, exploring the archive of a photographer diagnosed with dementia, has been produced by 10 artists at Coventry organisation Art Riot Collective (ARC).

In 2020 Jason Tilley suffered a series of mini strokes, affecting his short-term memory and resulting in the diagnosis.

Arts Council England (ACE) funding has allowed the 55-year-old to work with the artists to explore his archive in order to help prompt old memories and help build new ones.

Image caption, Photographer Jason Tilley was diagnosed with dementia after a series of strokes

ARC Creative Director Kyla Craig said the project had been an “important” one and set out to break down some of the barriers experienced by the often marginalised groups.

The organisation supports the creative development of a total of 22 artists, with some showing at national art galleries.

One member, Ismatjahan Ravat, has recently been commissioned to produce art for a city health centre.

Another, Corinne, who has been confined to bed for five years, has recently been nominated for a prestigious award.

“We’re really passionate about being an exclusive and inclusive studio to help support these artists,” said Ms Craig.

Image caption, Creative director Kyla Craig set up Art Riot Collective to support disabled and neurodivergent artists

As part of the exhibition responding to Mr Tilley’s images, Kitty Kaur produced a “sensory installation” based on the photographer’s memories.

“It’s about his good memories as well as those that have fizzled out,” she explained, “creating lost memories so they are relived”.

Being part of the neurodivergent art community was often “isolating and a struggle”, she added, but working on the project had been “eye-opening” and had given her the confidence to believe in herself.

An exhibition of Mr Tilley’s photographs spanning his time at local and national newspapers, as well as exploring his Anglo-Indian heritage have also gone on show at an adjoining gallery.

Image caption, Tiny replicas of the photographer’s work have been produced as part of the project

Tiny replicas of his images have been produced by Birmingham-born Saira-Jayne Jones as well as a portrait of Mr Tilley.

“When you see photography, you sometimes forget about the person behind the camera,” she said.

Ms Jones said she had worked to try and capture the two different sides of dementia.

“It’s both about identity and losing yourself,” she added.

Image caption, Elizabeth Hudnott’s installation based on bell ringing was in response to an image of a churchyard by Mr Tilley

Other pieces include The Morning After, by artist Will Haywood, celebrating an image taken by Mr Tilley of a trumpeter in Delhi.

“This re-ignited memories of my band visit to Delhi, where I wore a jacket not too dissimilar and shared Jason’s hangover experience from too many bottles of Hayward 5000 beer,” he said.

An interactive installation blending art and education based on the mathematics of bell ringing has been produced by Elizabeth Hudnott.

Taking part in the project had been “amazing”, she said.

“When you come in and see other artists work on the walls and it’s all very sensory and a lot of the work includes patterns and bright colours, which really makes me feel calm and relaxed.”

Image caption, Saira-Jayne Jones has written a poem as well as painting a portrait of the photographer, acknowledging his dementia

Working with the artists had been great, Mr Tilley said.

“I’ve loved it and I don’t want to stop.

“If I could continue doing it for the next 10 or 20 years it would really help,” he added.

Art Riot Collective had been “really important for all the artists,” he said.

“It always helps to meet other people and to meet artists is especially good as they are always lovely people.”

Image caption, The Morning After by Will Haywood

My Two Brains is on show at Art Riot Collective, Fargo Village Coventry by appointment from 16 – 23 May.

Jason Tilley’s photography is on show at Commonground, Fargo Village from 16 May to 16 June.

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