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> > > Colin Hambrook interviews Tanya Raabe about Revealing Culture: Head On
an ink drawing of a woman

Photo of drawing of Simone Aspis © Tanya Raabe

Revealing Culture: Head On sees Tanya Raabe conducting a series of events in Tate Modern and Tate Liverpool up until August 2011, drawing disabled people under the gaze of the general public.

Her next sitter at Tate Modern, Studio C on 29 January 2010 will be Sophie Morgan, fashion model on the BBC’s Britain’s Missing Top Model

Following that Garry Robson – artistic director of Fittings Multimedia – will sit for Tanya on Thursday 18 February 2010 in Tate Liverpool, Education Studio.

Tanya wants to engage members of the general public in conversation about the portraits she is making. She also plans to encourage people to take part, by making drawings of the sitter and the artist themselves.

Her first portrait sitting happened at Tate Modern on 5 January 2010 - despite the freezing weather! Simone Aspis, a disability rights campaigner, was her subject. Simone was labelled with a learning difficulty by the education system and was brought up within ’Special Education.’

Tanya says: “We were located near the Macaulay Studio B off of the Turbine Hall. Considering the gallery was pretty empty because of the weather, and the fact we were tucked out of the way, the 10 people we had come through was okay, although not as many as I’d hoped for. This part of Revealing Culture: HeadOn is all about creating open access, and this was a good beginning."

photo of artist and sitter in an art studio

Photo of Tanya Raabe and Simone Aspis in the Tate Modern, Macauley Studio, © Tanya Raabe

"One woman was very excited because she could interact with a ‘real’ artist. She wanted to have a chat, sit and do some drawing. Another couple wanted to sit and watch the drawings being made."

"I wanted each model to bring along something personal that would explain a bit about their lives. This was so that I could include the objects in the portraits – and also as a starting point for conversations."

"Simone brought a ‘scrapbook’ full of news clippings and drawings. This is her catalogue of all the press clippings that she has had published about campaigns she has been engaged with. Simone is very passionate about fighting for the rights for disabled people to live and to have an inclusive education."

"Simone got very animated when talking about the clippings and drawings in her folder – particularly her campaign around the separation of the Siamese conjoined twins Jodie and Mary that hit the headlines in 2000.”

At the time it was deemed appropriate to kill Mary to preserve the life of Jodie - against the parents wishes. Simone’s campaign consisted of questioning that judgement using the disability and the mainstream press.

The portraits that come out of Revealing Culture: Head On will differ from Tanya’s last project ‘Who’s Who.’ The portraits will be full figures, some nude, and will include elements that illustrate the lives of the models. When she puts the work online sound recordings of interviews with the sitters will overlap with her animated drawings.

photo of artist making a self-portrait

Photo of Tanya Raabe engaged in making a self-portrait © Tanya Raabe

"A further research element to the project will involve identifying artworks in Tate that reflect an aspect of disability culture. I want to capture public opinion of the artworks and include peoples’ reactions in the process of developing further artworks."

"For instance I’ve been thinking about Matisse’s collage ‘The Snail’ in terms of disability culture. The artwork was made with the aid of a support worker – something people won’t necessarily realize – and which I’m sure people will have an opinion about."

"Finally I want to create a multimedia piece which includes a range of perceptions from the general public, my own, and a viewpoint from gallery curators. I want to find a way of pulling everything together so the resultant artwork can be shown on-line and in a gallery space."

“I hope to influence the way that gallery curators identify art in terms of disability. There is still a strong tendency to use medical model jargon, when displaying work by disabled artists."

Tanya will be delving into public art collections on display in galleries in London and the West Midlands, while creating the ten new portraits of disabled cultural figures.

To find out more you can go to Tanya Raabe’s website. Look out for a new blog by Tanya as Revealing Culture: Head On develops.