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> > > Shape Gallery: Shortlist 6

Shape have just launched Shortlist 6: an exhibition of work marking the 6 years of the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary awards. Colin Hambrook visited Shape’s pop-up gallery in Westfield Shopping Centre, Stratford to see the work of the most recent bursary-winner, Aaron McPeake alongside that of three of the shortlisted artists.

photo of a ceramic crucible lit from behind by a burning flame

Aaron McPeake residency image, Ceramic shell burnout. Image (c) Richard Broomhall

It’s a mark of how far Shape arts have moved on, to support the work of disabled visual artists, that the organisation has engineered the lease on a gallery in Westfield shopping centre. The gallery is every bit as impressive as Allan Sutherland remarked in his report on the launch event, a few weeks ago.

It has the look and feel of a commercial white gallery space and on the night of the launch of Shortlist 6, many of the partners (and potential partners) of Shape’s Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary scheme were present.

Shape CEO Tony Heaton announced that it had taken years to build and prove the relationships with mainstream galleries for the residencies of the bursary winners, but that now, after 6 years he feels the award has a firm footing. He announced the recent call-out for applications for an ARMB bursary for a residency at The Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

The current exhibition of the work of this years bursary winner Aaron McPeake, alongside work of three of the shortlisted artists: David Lock, Christopher Sacre and The Vacuum Cleaner, conveys how far forward disabled artists have have come in developing their practice, with Shape’s support.

Aaron McPeake’s solid work in cut and cast slate, has an iconic feel. Primarily it made me think about how much has changed in the last 20 years, with the widespread introduction of computers and the internet as a tool for education. I loved the specificity of the Bic Pen and the Staedtler Pencil, pieces. 

I look back at those tools for writing with a certain amount of hankering after what’s been lost. The writing slate was used ubiquitously from the late eighteenth century and was used universally in schools until the 1940s. My dad used one in school and at the age of 90 he still has the most beautiful handwriting.

When you write; make marks using physical objects, there is something of you that goes into it; the quality of your handwriting offers something of your personality that a digital font can never replace.

In his speech Aaron talked passionately about working with under-privileged children during his residency at Spike Island, Bristol on a project called Room 13. The kids made bronze pieces, which were poured as part of a performance at Spike Island. He is to give a further talk about his ARMB work in the Shape gallery at an artists networking event on 3 July.

The works presented in the exhibition are wide-ranging from Sacre’s prints, commenting on the communities of deaf people throughout the UK, to the collagist paintings of David Lock with their reference to the portraiture of Modigliani and the wonderful Barking Mad intervention by the Vacuum Cleaner who I’m glad to see is going to be present as part of the Unlimited showcase at Southbank Centre, in September.

Shape can be proud of the successes of their ARMB award-winners. Noëmi Lakmaier has gone on to win an Unlimited award, as well as winning the Deptford X. Sally Booth recently had an exhibition at Tate Modern and Aaron Williamson who performed recently at Late at Tate is won the Stephen Cripps’ Studio Award for a residency at Acme Studios. 

And  the current call for applications, is for an artist to work closely with the Victoria & Albert Museum from January to March 2015 to develop their creative practice.

The Shortlist 6 exhibition runs until 16 August. Please click on this link for further details

Please click on this link to visit Shape's website