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Gallery: Nancy Willis presents Transformation - disability arts online
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27 April 2010

Background

Animated art by Nancy Willis, based on 'The Explorer' by Allan Sutherland, with music by Chris Morris

photo of artist Nancy Willis sitting with a film-making award

Nancy Willis

Transformation began when Nancy Willis was approached by Allan Sutherland to contribute to an oral history of disability arts. Nancy agreed but wanted the interview to focus on the development of her work as an artist. However, in reality, it was difficult to separate her art work from the deeply personal stories which emerged.

When first presented with the poems, Nancy felt uncomfortable about consenting to such personal stories being fixed into a text format. After some reflection, she proposed the creation of an animation, which would bring together the poems and images in a narrative stream.

Over the past year, the creation of Transformation has led Nancy into a reassessment of her life's work. The animations combine previously made paintings, prints, photographs and film. This material is carefully selected, often representing the original artworks that inspired the poems, but transformed through the time-based medium of animation. Musician and artist Chris Morris (aka Christopher Pigeom) has composed original music for the animation and contributed pieces from his collaborative project 'Six Foot Pigeon'. This experimental soundtrack forms a mysterious counterpoint to Nancy's more traditional approach as a painter and printmaker.

The themes in Transformation partly emerge from external difficulties and partly from those inner conflicts, which are rarely explored territory in the struggle for equality and human rights. The animations explore complex ideas about the nature of memory, identity and disability, catching fragments of the past which might be lost forever if not documented in some way.

Transformation Part 1

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Transformation Part 2

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Artists' Biographies

Nancy Willis is a London based artist. Throughout her career she has sought to express her particular view of life and experience of disability. In her work, Nancy creates a place where complex emotions can be explored without feelings of shame. Disability arts has provided a supportive environment for her art to thrive, it is from this place that she explores the universal themes of love, loss and human vulnerability.

London exhibitions include The Whitechapel Open and solo shows at the Diorama Art Gallery and Oxford House. Major Disability Arts exhibitions include Defiance: Art Confronting Disability, at City Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent (1993), Unleashed at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle (1995), and No Broken Arrows, Tulane University, New Orleans (2001). A projection of Transformation will be featured at the E17 Art Trail in September 2009.

As a teacher and workshop facilitator she has run workshops at the Serpentine Gallery, the Whitechapel Gallery, Byam Shaw School of Art and in many health and community settings.

Nancy has contributed as an independent researcher to Tate Britain, the Whitechapel Gallery's expansion project, and the University of Leicester's Rethinking Disability Representation. Her documentary 'Elegy for the Elswick Envoy' (commissioned by Channel 4 in 2007) has been shown at the BFI, gaining an honourable mention at Picture This Festival in Calgary, and winning six best documentary awards including Aspen Shortsfest, and the New Orleans Film Festival.

Chris Morris (aka Chris Pigeom) is a fringe artist, musician and 'dishevelled factory worker' from Herefordshire. Chris has no formal art education, preferring to develop and engage with art through his individual experience with the world. He has diagnosed himself with 'Exploding Head Syndrome' - a term he has coined himself to express the creative moments in his experience of epilepsy. He describes his use of everyday objects and unusual methods of creation as 'self governing artistic principle of decay'. He is prolific and has a huge awareness of obscure historical and contemporary artists and musicians from around the world. Rather than publicly showing his work in galleries he uses methods like those of the Mail Art movement and artists such as Ray Johnson.
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