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THIS IS HOW i DO IT! Acclaimed disabled artist’s workshops puts local people in the frame for his exhibition at Wentworth Woodhouse

By April 5, 2023No Comments
Artist Jason Wilsher-Mills with his exhibition pieces. He is sat in a wheel chair, is smiling and wearing a hat.

If iPad do it, you can do it….

Ahead of his exhibition at Wentworth Woodhouse, acclaimed disabled Yorkshire artist Jason Wilsher-Mills invited people with learning difficulties to the Rotherham stately home to learn how to make art digitally.

Jason taught himself how to ‘embrace the pixel’ and use digital technology after disability caused by a childhood bout of chicken pox suddenly worsened.

Aged 30 he had to leave his art teaching career and he decided to ‘paint his way’ back to supporting his family.

His disability meant Jason could no longer paint with oils, so he picked up an iPad.

His  large-scale, humorous and multi-hued artworks swiftly became sought-after and his exhibitions have toured the world.

His latest show,  Jason & His Argonauts,  a 20-21 Visual Arts Centre Touring Exhibition which he describes as  ‘activism in art form’, arrives at Wentworth Woodhouse on April 29.

Lightbox installations, wall hangings and intricately decorated fibreglass and inflatable sculptures celebrating disability and Jason’s Northern working-class heritage will be displayed on the ground floor and gardens of the Grade I listed stately home, making it fully accessible for all.

Ahead of the exhibition, Jason staged workshops for members of ArtWorks South Yorkshire, Rotherham Opportunity College and Sheffield-based Under The Stars – organisations which  help adults with learning disabilities to achieve their potential.

They were taught by Jason how to create art with iPads and made striking digital images of their faces and favourite things.

Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust’s staff and volunteers joined in too, and Jason has now added over 30 digital faces into six fabric artworks which will hang in the mansion’s Pillared Hall during the exhibition.

“I used to make art about me – now I make it about the  lives of people with disabilities and the inequality in our society,” said Jason, 54, of Wakefield. “The faces of people who took part in the workshops will be the first thing people see when they come to the exhibition. You matter – that’s what I’m trying to say.”

The workshops, which were funded by Flux Rotherham’s Creative People and Places programme, were a hit with ArtWorks South Yorkshire.

Chris Gaunt, one of its care co-ordinators, said: “Our members have dabbled a little in digital art, but they mainly work with paints and pencils. This was a great opportunity for them to learn new techniques from an expert.

“Jason took photos of them and they really enjoyed transforming their images with the iPad techniques he taught them.”

Lisa Fairchild, of Aston, has been with ArtWorks for four years. She said: “It was really good to work with Jason. I usually draw by hand but he gave me lots of advice on how to paint on an iPad. I think I still prefer my crayons and paints though!”

Sci-fi fan Craig Poultney, of Thorpe Hesley, created a brightly-hued digital version of his face, and his favourite possession – his hand-made model Dr Who Tardis  – and Harvey Hopkinson, of Kimberworth, enjoyed picking up new skills. He said: “It was good fun. I learned how to use the iPad to paint and Jason’s a great guy.”

Jen  Booth, the Preservation Trust’s Visitor Operations Manager: “Jason’s art makes strong statements about disability and inequality. The audiences he represents are among those the Trust strives to connect with and support.

“Thanks to the workshops Jason hosted, when his spectacular exhibition goes on show with us it will feature creations by local people, which makes it even more special.

“It is a must-see. Jason will be attending on opening day and that first weekend (April 29/30) we will have Jason’s 3.5 metre-long inflatable Changing Places Argonaut – a sculpture created to support the Changing Places campaign, which calls on  all large UK public venues to install fully-accessible toilets, equipped with height-adjustable changing benches and hoists.

“We’re very proud to be backing the campaign – a Changing Places building is being created next to our Camellia House in the grounds and will be ready this summer.”

The exhibition is included in the cost of general House & Gardens admission:

Image: Artist Jason Wilsher-Mills with his exhibition pieces

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