Art by prisoners goes on show for first time in Wales

Friday 8 March 2013, 16:02

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There is something very poignant about an exhibition where many of the contributing artists will never get to see their work on display.

That will be the case next week when an exhibition of work by prisoners, secure psychiatric patients and people on probation goes on show in Wales for the first time.

Secure is being put on at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff by the national charity the Koestler Trust, which has been promoting art by offenders for half a century.

Koestler Trust exhibition artwork: Early Morning City Road Early Morning City Road, HMP and YOI Parc, watercolour on paper

The trust believes in the power of art to rehabilitate offenders and boost their self-esteem.

Although work by inmates in secure hospitals and prisons in Wales has gone on show before elsewhere in the UK, we have not yet had the opportunity to hold a show here.

The exhibition is curated by six young offenders, aged 16 and 17, from the Parc Prison and young offenders’ institute in Bridgend and features 155 pieces including visual art, writing and music from detainees in institutions across the UK.

The selection of pieces ranges from the view of a cell from inside to a stunning street lamp on a Venice plaza.

It also includes a poem written by one of the young curators inspired by the image Underwater Wonderland, which is featured in the exhibition:

Look deep, explore at all costs
An unknown puzzle, scared to be lost
Take your time so you can find
A way to allow the message to shine.

The exhibition has been put together with training and guidance from professional curators and funding from the Co-operative.

Koestler Trust exhibition artwork: Me, Myself and I Me, Myself and I, HMP and YOI Parc, lino print on paper

Laurence Bater, creative arts curriculum manager at HMP and YOI Parc, said: "We firmly believe that art can help rehabilitate our prisoners and help them return to society as better citizens.

"In recent years we have contributed a substantial number of exhibits to the Koestler Trust and so we were delighted when we were asked if a group of our young people could curate their first exhibition in Wales.

"The young people involved were enthusiastic and there was considerable debate about which entries were finally chosen for display.

"I have no doubt that this opportunity helped with the rehabilitation of the young people involved and I hope that visitors to the exhibition find the final selection to be stimulating and thought provoking."

Each year the annual Koestler Awards see submissions of up to 8,000 paintings, drawings, sculpture and creative writing by those enduring life on the inside.

Koestler Trust exhibition artwork: Quail Quail, HM Prison Usk, embroidery

The awards were set up by Arthur Koestler, who campaigned for the abolition of capital punishment in the 1950s.

After hanging was finally abolished in 1965, he channelled his energy into setting up an annual scheme to award 'creative work in the fields of literature, the arts or sciences by those physically confined'.

Sarah Grainger-Jones, deputy director of arts for the Koestler Trust, said: "Institutions in Wales have always made a fantastic contribution to the Koestler Awards – both in terms of quantity and quality of entries.

"That’s why it’s so great to be finally holding an exhibition here – and to be staging it at such a major national venue.

"We’re always keen to involve local people in our exhibitions as much as possible and the team of young curators from HMP & YOI Parc have been absolutely inspiring in the way they went about the project."

Secure has been supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Co-operative and will be open daily 10am to 6pm from 11 March to 26 May. Entry is free.

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