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Phil Lancaster - disability arts online
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8 May 2007

Colin Hambrook talked to Phil Lancaster about his compelling, computer generated images

A surreal bookcase with severed head

Self Assembly photomontage by Phil Lancaster

Do you have favourite ways of working?

Usually ideas for pictures just pop into my mind. I'll see a whole picture, or part of a picture in my head then I'll make everything on the computer. My favourite approach is to put the background in first, then the mid-ground and finally the foreground with the finer details. I'll often modify my expression according to the limitations of the software programme. I always put the headphones on and turn the music up loud. It helps me focus on what I am doing on the screen without any distractions, like hearing voices.

I was recently asked by the Socialist Party to make some posters. It was a new challenge. Mulling over subjects for the project broadened my focus and got me thinking about the world and things happening across the globe.

What artists' work do you admire or find inspiring?

I like Magritte and Dali. I've always particularly liked the melting clocks. I've always interpreted Magritte's raining men in bowler hats, falling from the sky as a comment on capitalism and bureaucracy.

A lot of your work in the past has been about disability. What are your feelings about Disability Arts and where it is going as a movement?

I think there is a place for Disability Arts. The expression of Disability through Art is absolutely essential. But I do think it can limit an artist to solely express disability. Subject matter is important and there's a whole world of important subjects such as starvation, war, child prostitution, homelessness, etc etc.

It is vital to get across issues of discrimination and prejudice. But disabled artists should look at the wider picture. I think art made from a disability perspective can still address subjects that are important to address in the world. I think there is a danger that Disability Arts is taking on the same values as mainstream art. I've always been against profit, as a motive for making art. How ridiculous does it get when Saatchi or anyone, will pay a fortune for an unmade bed. It's an insult to anyone in the world who is suffering as a result of starvation or war.

A problem arises when you want to sell your work so you can be a success. You might not want to be purely commercial, but the whole art world encourages you to follow their lead by putting celebrity artists up as icons to follow. The carrot that drives you on is success and money. Following the aspirations of the Art world means that disabled artists focus on aiming for a level of exposure - trying to make their way in Disability Arts, rather than looking at the world. It means disabled artists focus far too much on the individual. They limit themselves to playing a particular game - becoming more professional. The values are wrong in my view. I've done the gallery thing, and have come to the conclusion that the only way is to make work solely as expression. It's a personal viewpoint, but I think Disability Arts needs to broaden its scope and encourage artists to look at the wider picture.

You can see and read more about Phil Lancaster on the Voices Forum

See Phil Lancaster's Gallery