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We Made This: Turner Contemporary’s exhibition of art by offenders


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'We Made This', the new exhibition at Turner Contemporary, is a diverse display of works made by people in prison, young offender programmes and other institutions in the South East of England. The show gives visitors an insight into a world of art that has previously been hidden.

The exhibition humanises offenders, giving prisoners a platform to show their expressions of creativity, depicting the often-obscured emotions that accompany incarceration. Each work was made in prisons, secure hospitals, young offender institutions, immigration removal centres and by people on probation. The new show is a result of a new partnership between the prison arts charity Koestler Trust, Turner Contemporary and KSS CRC, who are responsible for supporting low and medium risk offenders in the South East.

'Hanging By A Thread', HM Prison Lewes. Image: Turner Contemporary.

The curators of the exhibition are also past offenders, on probation with Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company. These volunteers, led by artist Trish Scott, participated in workshops on curation, selecting 75 artworks from over 700 submissions from the South East.

Sally Taylor, Chief Executive of Koestler Trust, shares her thoughts on the new partnership: “This is our first regional show in the South East and we’re thrilled that Turner Contemporary will be the setting for Koestler artwork, in the same year as the gallery hosts the prestigious Turner Prize. To have service users from KSS CRC as the curators add another layer of meaning to this project, and we’re very much looking forward to seeing the exhibition emerges from their efforts and ideas.”

'Knights', HM Prison Standford Hill - Commended Award for Craft Image: Turner Contemporary.

The diverse show is not just paintings, but poetry, sculpture and music too, with soap carvings, matchstick models and needlecraft also taking centre stage. The volunteer curators also contributed to the design of the show, and the textual descriptions of the work, fully immersing themselves in the experience of curating an art show. Suki Binning, the KSS CRC Chief Executive, commends the programme: “it will give them [the contributors] an opportunity to develop team working skills, a sense of worth about what they can achieve and reflect on how they can make more positive choices in the future”.

'GNU's at Nine', HM Prison Elmley. Image: Turner Contemporary.

Visitors are encouraged to write feedback discussing their favourite works at the end of the show. These notes will then be sent back to the artist, providing them with a touching memento from the experience. The majority of the works are on sale, too, with prices ranging from £40 to £500. This money will be split between the artist, the charity Victim Support, and the Koestler Trust.

The exhibition is on display at Turner Contemporary in Margate until 19th May. More information can be found on their website, here.

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