LUMINOUS is the latest project by the Shadowlight Artists, a group of seven artists with learning disabilities based in Oxfordshire. The exhibition is diverse in media and subjects, and features painting, photography, animation, dance and sculptural installation.
The works shown explore ideas about a personal relationship with the landscape, bullying, changing industrial landscapes and historical portraiture. Other work draws on a huge range of emotions from joy to sorrow, humour to exasperation. All of the work represents honest responses to the day-to-day world from this unique group of artists.
The Shadowlight Artists are a group of seven artists with learning disabilities based in Oxfordshire, working in a variety of media but with a shared interest in digital forms. Their work is personal, moving, and at times challenging. The group formed in 2009 as a result of Film Oxford’s Flash Frame project. The aim of the project was to identify individuals with learning disabilities who showed artistic potential and ambition to take their work to a broader audience. Since then, the group have gone on to produce work that has reached audiences within the UK and beyond, spanning media, from painting and sculptural installation, to film and theatrical production. The Shadowlight Artists are Wendy Belcher, Tom Breach, Mark Hemsworth, Russell Highsmith, Richard Hunt, Lucy Skuce and Danny Smith.
The story of LUMINOUS
Commencing in late summer 2019, the LUMINOUS project has been defined by the lockdown, which presented significant additional challenges to people with learning disabilities. Film Oxford, the Shadowlight Artists and freelance professionals were forced to find new innovative ways to work collaboratively at a distance. They liaised with the artists’ family members and their support & care organisations to drew 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.
The body of work presented in the exhibition does not engage with the COVID-19 crisis directly, but instead underlies it as a subtext due to the radically different working methods used to create the works on show. The enforced experiment in distanced artistic collaboration has opened up new possibilities for the future activities of the group, offering a pathway towards artist collaborations unlimited by geographical separation and towards a greater potential for inclusion for disabled artists if given sufficient resources.