Trish Wheatley reports on news from the Shape Open closing party on Thursday 29 January 2015
The evening of 29th January 2015 saw the Shape Open Exhibition Closing Party at the organisation’s gallery at Westfield Shopping Centre, Stratford. The exhibition had opened in their previous premises a few doors down last year but sat well in the new more condensed space.
A lively crowd attended for the revealing of the 2014 Shape Open winner, including the current Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary Recipient, Carmen Papalia, who has recently started his residency at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The Shape Open, now in it’s third incarnation is an opportunity for disabled and non-disabled artists to respond to a disability–related theme, this year being ‘In[visible]’. A new addition this year was the People’s Choice category, which was voted for by the public in the weeks the exhibition was open. The prize was split between two artists receiving £125 each, Lucy Hutsen for her work ‘Long Johns’ and Jack Haslam for ‘Label me Jack, just another animal’.
The Patron and Judge for the Shape Open, acclaimed artist Yinka Shonibare MBE RA, was in attendance to announce the winner Carly Jayne for her sculptural work called ‘Strangers’, receiving a price of £1000. Of her work he said “I chose it because I like the fact that it was representing disability, but it’s also a very ambivalent piece. It’s very well made and I think it works as a piece of art and also as a questioning piece of work. I like the combination of the conceptual aspects and the aesthetic aspects.”
During his speech, Yinka also spoke of the influence that Shape had on his early career "As a disabled young man, I finished at art college and I didn’t know where to turn," he explained. "Then I found out about Shape and then the rest is history – you know what happened since! Shape gave me a lot of confidence." This reinforces how opportunities like taking part in the Shape Open can be crucial to artists’ development and career progression. Shape has succeeded through this exhibition in making contact with and discovering emerging artists. This is sure to encourage these artists to engage with the disability arts sector and open up new conversations.