The Shadowlight Artists are a Multi-award-winning collective of Oxfordshire-based digital artists with learning disabilities, supported by Film Oxford, which is a Digital Arts Training and Education Charity. Digital Arts provide an ideal platform to give those with communication and learning disabilities a voice. The group have had success with the showcasing of their work in mainstream galleries, and at national and international festivals. They have the drive and talent to further challenge negative perceptions about disabled artists, and to demand that the arts establishment “sit up and take notice”. They are a small local group but with a wider reach.
They meet regularly to make their own group decisions and have a self-reported need for further opportunities to create and exhibit their art. They also like to share their skills with other people with learning disabilities, by running creative workshops in art, filmmaking and drama. The Shadowlight group themselves all have almost no formal art education, due to the access barriers that exist for people with learning disabilities, and many face additional barriers accessing professional development opportunities.
DREAMSVILLE Shadowlight Artist group production, Mark Hemsworth and Abul Kasem
Photograph: Daniel Breach
Mark Hemsworth, Richard Hunt and Danny Smith of Shadowlight Artists creating sets for DREAMSVILLE
Photograph: Roger Gilboy
Production still from - Light from My Crystal - film by Danny Smith
Wendy Belcher and Russell Highsmith, frame grab from LANDSCAPES, Shadowlight artists group production
Shadowlight Artists c/o Film Oxford
54 Catherine Street
In this short documentary some of the Shadowlight Artists talk about their work, including extracts from some of their film work.
Duration: If Exhibition with art work (as long as you like), Films only 41mins.
Number of people on road: Would depend, if exhibition one or two people may be needed to install exhibition, similarly if speakers are required? It could however be set up with remote advise?
If just screening the films no people needed.
Freight: Freight necessary
Freight necessary only if full exhibition,
6 paintings, 6 Drawings, Installation (Large light painting), 7 Films plus additional film of a theatre performance.
No Freight for just films.
Creative Bridges is a project based around the creation of a new body of work by the Shadowlight Artists, a group of 6 artists with learning disabilities based in Oxfordshire, working in a variety of media but with a shared interest in digital forms. The group formed in 2009 as a result of Film Oxford’s Flash Frame project. The Creative Bridges project aimed to allow each of the artists to collaborate with an established artist on a platform of creative parity in the production of new work and exhibit the results in mainstream art spaces. In parallel, the core group worked alongside a group of less experienced artists, the Shadowlight Associates, which is seen as a potential recruitment pool for the core group whilst providing artistic opportunity to a broader base of people with learning disabilities. Creative Bridges comprises of 7 artists films (41 mins in total) as well as paintings, drawings and installation. All the work was exhibited at the Cornerstone Gallery in Didcot in July and August 2016 and at Modern Art Oxford during October 2016. The films have been shown separately at Film Festivals in London, Oxford, Manchester and Canada. The films have had national UK broadcasts and one of the paintings won a National UK Art Prize.
Creative Bridges Details:
1) Group Film production – “Landscapes” Landscapes is a Shadowlight Artists Group production. Influenced by the great masters of landscape paintings, the group imagine themselves as characters within living landscape paintings.
2) Richard Hunt, 6 paintings on canvas plus documentary “Amazing Art” Richard Hunt's work is based in the desire to communicate his feelings through painting. A major ambition for Richard is to be respected as an artist by the wider community, and not to be defined as an artist with Downs Syndrome. Artist Richard Hunt, working with artists Sonia Boué and Ellen Hausner at Magdalen Road Studios in Oxford, and supported by Film Oxford Richard has Produced a series of paintings reflecting his interests in popular culture, and has imbued these with a devotional element. Richard identifies his creativity as an extension of his Catholic faith, and sees painting as a direct expression of his belief. Working in a professional studio environment has enabled Richard to paint at a much larger scale than in his previous work, and develop techniques that incorporate his own self- taught style with more traditional ways of working. He has also produced a film which explores the thinking process behind his work as a painter. Richard won a national art award at the 2017 Shape Open in London for the painting “Totempole” created as part of Creative Bridges. He was the first person with a learning disability to win this award.
3) Danny Smith – Dance for Camera – “Light from My Crystal” Danny Smith was born in Wallingford where he grew up, and now lives in Oxford. Danny has clear artistic intentions: to show independence, demonstrate emotions associated with change and “show people I’m not lonely, which people think I am”. Danny identifies pride in being a role model for other disabled people seeking an independent life. He has broad artistic interests and has worked in a wide range of media from painting and photography to performance, animation and documentary. Working with choreographer and dramatist Emma Webb and photographer Roger Gilboy, Danny has made a film exploring his dreams. Danny is interested in the cave as a dream space, and the imagery of ancient cave dwellers. In his dream, Danny awakes in the Stone Age, and finds a crystal that has the power to bring life to the distant past. Danny has visualised this dream, performing in the Clearwell Caves with himself cast in a gothic imagining of ancestral life.
4) Lucy Skuce – “Light Painting” installation, plus documentary film of it being created. LUCY SKUCE has made a light installation and a film exploring her obsession with light and power sources, and long standing relationship with the now demolished Didcot A power station, which has been a major icon in her life. Working with artist Chris Oakley, Lucy designed and fabricated an illuminated light piece using electroluminescent wire, based on her drawings of the Didcot cooling towers. The film documents the design and fabrication of the work, and reflecting Lucy’s interest in the processes of demolition and construction. Lucy identifies with the hierarchical nature of the construction industry, and sees it as a parallel to the control Lucy sees as of primary importance in her own life.
5) Mark Hemsworth – Film – “Moods & Seasons” Mark Hemsworth was born in Reading and grew up in Cholsey, Oxfordshire with his family. Mark is a skilled draughtsman, but is equally interested in photography, film, and other recording media. In part due to his passion for walking and the landscape, Mark is also interested in work which uses the landscape and experience of the natural environment directly, such as the work of Richard Long. Working with filmmaker Naomi Morris Mark has created a Documentary about his life and the influence of seasonal affective disorder on its tempo. Over an annual cycle, the film follows Mark on his walks with a camcorder, with which he documents his responses to the environment across the seasons. The audience shares a sense of a world that expands through spring into a frenetic summer, slowing and contracting back into a contained domestic world as winter closes.
6) Russell Highsmith – Documentary Film about his play “The Big Shock - Russell Highsmith - A writers Profile” Russell Highsmith was born in Oxford in 1985, and lives in Abingdon. He has been writing for the screen for the past 10 years, and is captivated by TV sitcoms from the 1970s and ‘80s. Building on his previous writing and direction projects, Russell has expanded his writing from short film scripts into long-form work. He has developed a script for a play which culminated in a theatrical performance of the work The Big Shock in February 2016. The play draws on the genres of romantic comedy and drama, and at times offers an unsettling view of young relationships. Russell developed the piece in collaboration with playwright and producer Mark Ralph-Bowman and was supported by Film Oxford. (As far as we can tell), performance of The Big Shock at Cornerstone Theatre in Didcot was the first full play, given a public performance at mainstream theatre in the UK, written by a writer with learning disabilities. A video of the whole performance is also available (55min) and this was screened on a loop on a separate monitor during Creative Bridges Exhibition at Cornerstone Gallery and Modern Art Oxford.
7) Group Film Production – “Dreamsville” Giant’s attack the sleepy village of Dreamsville, what will the local inhabitants do? As well as exhibitions, broadcasts and festival screenings this film was also shown on the main stage launch event for Paralympics in London.
8) Tom Breach – series of 6 framed Drawings in pencil. Tom Breach is 20, lives in Oxford and has Asperger’s. He enjoys drawing but feels in some ways let down by the education system and lacks confidence in his own abilities and creativity. Through taking part in The Shadowlights projects he has made new friends and is beginning to realise that others rate his drawing skills highly. I have enjoyed being able to show my drawing skills and learn more about film making, acting to ‘Green screen’ and some animation and editing techniques on the workshops. They are a great bunch to work with and made me feel welcome. Tom is now the most recent addition to the Shadowlight Artists, having joined the core group during the course of the Creative Bridges project. He looks forward to developing his own projects alongside the core group in the near future.