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Pop-up gallery in Stratford promotes work by disabled

Shape Gallery Shape Gallery

Monday, June 16, 2014
5:45 PM

A new pop-up art gallery has added culture to the shops and restaurants of Westfield Stratford City.

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Noëmi Lakmaier’s The Observer EffectNoëmi Lakmaier’s The Observer Effect

Disability-led arts organisation Shape is behind the venue, which will also provide lessons, workshops and space for artists with disabilities to express their creativity.

There are currently 20 disabled artists exhibiting at the gallery as well as Noëmi Lakmaier’s The Observer Effect performance piece.

This performance sees the artist sitting at a desk in the gallery window, hand-painting shoes. Lakmaier will meticulously paint 500 pairs of shoes in blue to emphasise and exaggerate the value of labour within this commercial setting.

Upcoming exhibition Shortlist 6 will feature work by contenders for the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary, along with art from this year’s recipient.

Among those shortlisted for the award, which offers a three-month residency at a high-profile gallery as well as £5,000, is artist James Leadbitter, also known as The Vacuum Cleaner.

His largely autobiographical work explores the experience of mental illness and its stigma in society.

James said: “Firstly it’s about challenging discrimination around mental health and being quite open about difficulties that you face experiencing a mental health condition but also I am quite interested in demystifying the whole process.”

He continued: “We are getting better at talking about it. I am interested in bringing the subject to the surface in a way that is accessible, shocking or funny.

“If we confront it in a direct way then people can understand and it will be less frightening.”

Locating the gallery in Westfield not only puts the subject of disability in the spotlight but also makes it clear that it is part of people’s every day lives.

The seemingly banal acts of shopping or eating are suddenly thrust into perspective when associated with the fact that disability is everywhere and cannot be ignored.

James said he has received positive responses on Twitter for the honesty of his work.

“The risk is worth it. You find commonality in other people’s experiences and you are empowered by speaking about it.

“The way you change a taboo is being upfront and I don’t believe that one piece of art can change the world but, in a small way, it can really empower people.”

The Shape Gallery, open Wednesday to Saturday from 10am, can be found at Westfield Stratford City in The Street.

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