Re-Thinking The Body: Artist Statement

Caroline O’Connor MA Glass – Artist Statement

The inspiration to participate in this exhibition comes from my interest in echolocation and its benefits for the light blind.

Whilst flicking through the Farnham archive I became interested in the various textures contained within the handwritten minutes. I considered how this might have been more stimulating to the tactile senses in the past when compared to the printed words of today.

With this in mind I have tried to replicate the differences in the depth of colour by emphasizing the three dimensional nature of the word. The piece of writing that the artwork comes from is the word “in” which is echoed in the line below.

A person is “in” the library and has the echoes of words all around them.



Re-thinking the body- new work inspired by UCA archive: the process

In September 2015, along with Senior Lecturer for Photography co-curated an exhibition,Senior Lecturer for Photography, on Sexual Identity and Photography in the Herbert Read Gallery, UCA Canterbury. This was a exhibition that took a year within the planning. During this time my experience on liaising with artists, marketing, budget managing, organising artists events, gave me the confidence to plan my first solo curated exhibition, albeit on a smaller scale.

This led to Re-thinking the Body: New works inspired by UCA Archive, Farnham, Elaine Thomas Library – for both Disability History Month in November and for Explore Archives

ExhibitionI was inspired to undertake this exhibition by attending Tower Hamlets ‘Out of the Box’ event. Out of the Box ‘invited disabled people and artists from East London to take the lead in bringing archives ‘out of the box’, exploring them and asserting their own personal local histories. Through a series of workshops, participants followed a personal research journey into the council’s heritage collections, engaging with sound and oral history, handwritten archives on parchment, newspapers, painting and photographs.’ The event they organised brought me into contacting with research that had been done of disability in museums and galleries. It may me think on how disability was reflected in our archives – and how we could bring this to life, which we have the potential to do in our creative community. I am also aware from alumni magazines we collect on many examples of artists working on the theme of disability. Dyslexia and creativity also often go together, and as someone with a specific learning disability (dyslexia and dyspraxia) this is a subject close to my heart.

From this I developed a proposal, alongside deadlines- put a call out for new artworks to be produced by students, inspired by our collections. I aimed for 8 students. This could be on any theme on the body, including mental health. This call out was open to both disabled and non-disabled students. I was also interested in looking at participants experiences with working with disabled communities – for example one of our participants worked with the deaf community as an interpreter – both inside and outside at the same time. As this would be voluntary for students – extra-curricular – I also spoke to lecturers to ensure that they were able to send the details out – to gage interest. The galleries refined the statement for me and sent the call out around to all students.

I had selected material in advance – including material from the Tessa Boffin archive, looking at photography and sexuality, particularly the LGBT community, and the Working Press, books by and about working class artists 1986-1996, looking at getting marginalised groups published. I also selected haunting photographs from our institutional archives. As participants from other campuses were invited to join in (we are on a 4 campus university) I also put digital images online.

I was happy with the immediate interest I had – as soon as the call out was out, I had 5 responses within a week. Students came from a different levels – BA and MA, and courses were Fine Art, Illustration, and Ceramics. We spoke to the students about their interest and was able to gage types of material to showcase. I did have interest from other campuses, but did not have worked produced from other campuses – I feel that although they had access to digital images, the human touch was particularly important.

Some students chose to use actual images from the archive looking at ways to interpret – including Joslyn Hobbis’, Fine Art, work ‘Different-not less’, looking at invisible disabilities, which used an image from our institutional collections. Setting up exhibition 31Or Allison Inwards, Illustration, ‘Origins’, which explored the female body image, linking to areas such as suffragettes. Allison used the Tessa Boffin archive, and the Working Press archive

Setting up exhibition 32Other students looked at motifs in the archive, such as the themes of ‘labels’ or labelling’, Ceramics

Kim Cruickshank-Inns work 'Welcome'

Kim Cruickshank-Inns work ‘Welcome’

Students such as Daire Lawlor, Illustration, used material from the Tessa Boffin archive as a ‘launchpad’ for inspiration, to explore medical history, depression. Tessa Boffin directly related due to her work around AIDS as early as the 1980s


Susan Merrick, Fine Art, used themes such as fear, and ideas of power to inspire her work, which can be found in the Working Press archive. This inspired her to look at themes of people within power through history

Setting up exhibition 30

Madeline Sparrow, Fine Art, looked at the ideas of communication with her braille piece

Setting up exhibition 24

We had 6 student submissions and the exhibition was set up with brilliant Gallery assistants – we were able to discuss in which order the pieces should be hung (for example which images matched in themes, how did they complement colour wise) how the pieces should be hung (magnets – non obtrusive!) the placing of the vinyl. The labels saying words such as ‘kindness’, were attached to the tables with museum resin. I also got technical help with the television screens.

DSC_0627 DSC_0630 DSC_0631 DSC_0632 DSC_0635 DSC_0642 DSC_0644 DSC_0648 DSC_0650 DSC_0652 DSC_0654 DSC_0657 DSC_0659-2 DSC_0661

Take a look at our flickr album of the exhibition here

I have arranged an artist’s event to happen on the 24th where the artists will have the opportunity to talk about their work.

The display has also been highlighted to the Equality and Diversity Group at UCA.

I’m very pleased with how everything looks, and the comments that i’ve captured about the exhibition. The enthusisatic response I have got from students is incredibly encouraging especially as it is extra-curricular! I’m particularly interested in opening up responses for both disabled and non disabled people who work in various communities. Something definitely I will be developing further…

Rebekah Taylor

Archivist & Special Collections Officer

Re-thinking the body: Artist’s Event

Re-thinking the body: Artist’s Event
New work inspired by UCA’s archive
November – December 2015
Elaine Thomas Library

Private view and artists’ event

Artists’ event on Tuesday 24th November 18:00 Elaine Thomas Library. Talks from exhibiting artists followed by a drinks reception

Re-thinking the body consists of work by postgraduate and undergraduate students imaginatively responding to our collections on ways that disability has been represented and (mis)understood in society and culture

Madeline Sparrow, MA Fine Art

Susan Merrick, MA Fine Art

Allison Inwards, BA Illustration

Daire Lawlor, BA Illustration

Joslyn Hobbis, BA Fine Art

Kim Cruickshank-Inns, BA Ceramics

There will also be a display of archival and library material in the reading room

The event is free but let us know if you are coming by booking tickets here

Setting up exhibition 25 Setting up exhibition 24 Exhibition set up Setting up exhibition 26

Exhibition set up in process

Re-thinking the Body: New work inspired by UCA’s archive- Artist Statements

Re-thinking The Body
New work inspired by UCA’s archive
November – December 2015
Elaine Thomas Library

Re-thinking the Body aims to explore different ways in which disability has been represented and (mis)understood in society and culture.

Kim Cruickshank-Inns, BA Three Dimensional Design ‘Welcome’

Are we losing sight of our more sentient human qualities? Many people are currently forced into seeking asylum from war zones. Historically asylums were places people deemed mentally ill were confined away from society. Benches and tables are spaces where we can choose to spend time alone or share communally, often with strangers. Both can be commemorative, their placement being carefully selected.  We all need a small exterior corner of the universe to feel safe in, even though the physical location may not be of our choosing.  Feeling safe internally depends on individual psychological and emotional resilience. It is not only the place and how we feel, but the attitude of others that makes for safety and security.

Kim Cruickshank-Inns work 'Welcome'

Kim Cruickshank-Inns work ‘Welcome’

Joslyn Hobbis, BA Fine Art ‘Different, Not Less’  

H57cm x W167cm digital print on paper

My work was inspired by my experiences of interacting with people with invisible disabilities, as well as those with more obvious ones.  I wanted to show how at any given time you may be interacting with any number of people who have a disability and sometimes you not be aware of it.   Some people may have an intellectual disability, a medical issue which is not immediately apparent, Autism, or a mental illness as well as many different kinds of more obvious disabilities.  All are worthy of inclusion in society and we should help those with difficulties to be a part of our world as well as strive to be a part of theirs.

People who are different are just that – different – not less.

Setting up exhibition 31

Alli Inwards, BA Illustration ‘Origins’

Mixed Media (thread drawing on foam board, collage, acrylic, corkboard support)

Articles with titles such as ‘Lesbian erotica on show – By Women for women’ and dated dot matrix style printed documents referencing Sylvia Pankhurst’s socialist activity were in the archival box that provided inspiration for ‘Origins’. Borrowing from ‘L’origines du monde’ (Courbet), this illustration is by a woman primarily for the female gaze. Copies of archive material are juxtaposed with other historical and contemporary references around the focal point of a vagina.

The principal goal with this image is to arrest the viewer, to start a conversation – it is not intended to be a piece of wall decoration. The conversation is as much about Illustration and the role it has to play within the body of a largely fine art dominated world, as it is about women – especially women within the male controlled media and art world. It is unashamedly feminist; it is not misandry.

Imperfections and the ‘unpolished’ nature of the work are intentional and a reaction against the unrealistic, airbrushed versions of perfection that relentlessly present themselves to females of all ages in magazines, digital media, ads, even in selfies and profile photos. Related to this is awareness that the postmodern era of art may be giving way to a new ‘ism’ grounded in authenticity. What will this mean for women as individual, as a collective, as artist and as subject?

and what could it mean for Illustration?

Setting up exhibition 32

Daire Lawlor, BA Illustration

I come from a family of medical practitioners, and so I have grown up around hospitals and doctors and nurses my entire life.  Talk about medicine has been a staple part of my growing up, and as someone who suffers from chronic recurring depression and insomnia, constant visits to my GP are something of the norm.  This project allowed me access to the archives where stigma was present and art was made into a conductor of emotional resonance for those who suffered.  During my research, I began to wonder, how can I reflect the trials of mental illness?  Is it necessary to show the face at all, which initially had been so important to me?  In the end, I wanted to create something that was uncomfortable to look at, that was empty inside, hollowed out, and drained from the constant need to put up a front.  Mental illness renders you invisible to society, and yet also considered a burden.  In this piece, I wished to explore the feelings of otherness, powerlessness, seclusion, and, through the perception of others, the loss of personhood and autonomy.  


Susan Merrick, MA Fine Art  ‘She’s in a nightie and so forth’, (subtitles: Troll tweet to female MP/Female causes of insanity, Politician arguing against suffrage/Tweet from male MP to female MP, The 17th century rape exemption used until 1991/US Senator speech about marital rape/ Corinthians 14:34-35/Pope’s speech)

Understanding can never be assumed. As the French philosopher Derrida discussed many times, words only ever have meaning in relation to the other words that they are used in conjunction with or in relation to. What we say, what we do and even who we think we are is described by language. Language that can be interpreted and reinterpreted, corrupted and changed beyond all intent.

As a professional Interpreter I’m placed in a position of privilege and power in relation to this very aspect of understanding. The power to have control over the interpretation, the meaning and intent.

I have begun to explore texts, letters, reports and articles from people within power in history and compare the beliefs and prejudice that I saw to contemporary society. With this I am starting to ask; Do we ever have full understanding of the intended meaning of a message or piece of text? What happens when we see it out of context? From a different source, or translated in an unexpected way? Does it gain or lose power? Do meanings of terms stay the same through time? Or do we simply apply our current understanding to them?

Exhibition set up

Madeline Sparrow, MA Fine Art

With art I find it easier to translate my thoughts and emotions, for communication is a weakness for me. This goes back to my dyslexia; some part of me feels like an outsider because my sense of language differs from others. I suppose it is the child-like empathy, which is why art gives me creativity from the difficulty in communicating, especially in written language. Art welcomed me into a warm embrace to continue speaking out loud with a visual noise of colours. Some have critiqued my style, but I conclude that it is my own Madeline-ish madness in the moment.

I became inspired by UCA Archive to re-think my narrative art. I questioned myself in how my body is a mechanical object in writing. I felt merely typing or handwritten was not enough to thinking beyond my own movements. Instead of the process in making, I want to reflect on how the audiences would use their bodies in part of the narrative. I thought about the visual appearances and the energy to read. I felt Braille was a unique development in the creation. Due to awareness in disabilities and the harsh word beginning with ‘Dis…’ I want to remove this ‘disadvantage’ of who we are.

Abilities are a strength in which we learn and grow in knowledge. I felt that those who can read Braille are advance to the power of this secretive language in which appears in everyday life. The Braille is not about the dots, but the space surrounding them. As the artist who wrote these narrative and have not the ability of actually read Braille, yet, I felt as if my words were simplified into an extraordinary pattern basis. The aesthetic feeling of movement of my finger around the space and dots became curiosity at its best.

Setting up exhibition 24

Re-thinking The Body – New work inspired by UCA’s archive

Re-thinking The Body
New work inspired by UCA’s archive
November – December 2015
Elaine Thomas Library

Madeline Sparrow, MA Fine Art; Susan Merrick, MA Fine Art (video piece);Allison Inwards, BA Illustration; Daire Lawlor, BA Illustration: Joslyn Hobbis, BA Fine Art: Kim Cruickshank-Inns, BA Three Dimensional Design

Re-thinking the Body aims to explore different ways in which disability has been represented and (mis)understood in society and culture. UCA’s Archives invited students to each produce new work which imaginatively responded to particular areas of our collection, including Tessa Boffin’s Photography Archive, themes related to sexual identity, and the Working Press archive. Participants also took inspiration from material related to mental health, language and terminology of disability, body image, gender roles, invisible disabilities, the idea of labelling, and the materiality of the archive.

Re-thinking the Body coincides with Disability Month (November 2015) and involves current undergraduate and postgraduate students studying at UCA, Farnham.


Madeline Sparrow, MA Fine Art

Susan Merrick, MA Fine Art (video piece)

Allison Inwards, BA Illustration

Daire Lawlor, BA Illustration

Joslyn Hobbis, BA Fine Art

Kim Cruickshank-Inns, BA Three Dimensional Design

Curated by Rebekah Taylor, Archivist

Kim Cruickshank-Inns work 'Welcome'

Kim Cruickshank-Inns work ‘Welcome’

Events for Disability History Month, November 2015

For Disability History Month in November UCA Farnham Library is putting on a series of events, including film screenings. This includes film screenings  Freewheelers, an Inclusive Theatre group, based in Surrey, who recently collaborated with the Surrey History Centre to produce a series a films relating to the history of disability within Surrey.

The Freewheelers screening will take place on the 18th November – tickets can be accessed here

UCA Farnham Library will also be hosting an exhibition on ‘Re-thinking the Body’ New work inspired by UCA’s archive’, with works produced by UCA students inspired by the archives

Stereotype and Stigma poster with links

Re-thinking The Body

Library and Student Services Archives & Special Collections invite applications from UCA students to participate in a research project leading to an exhibition in the Elaine Thomas Library.  Re-thinking the Body coincides with Disability Month (November 2015) and aims to explore different ways in which disability as physical and mental manifestations have been represented and (mis)understood in society and culture.
Entrants are expected to take an innovative approach in working with and respond to LSS’s extensive archives which date back to the 19th century and comprise sound, video, acetate, photography and paper documents.
Poster design from the Working Press

Poster design from the Working Press

The archive includes different collections – work by artists, such as, the Tessa Boffin photography archive which explores stereotype and stigma (1980s/90s), and the Working Press archive (1980s/90s), a key publishing venture which supported working class writers and marginalised groups in being published.

Participants will be introduced to material available in the archives. They will choose an item, or items, from the archives, and explore ways to respond creatively to or reinterpret that item. To see the material (digital or physical), please contact Rebekah Taylor at
Artworks produced should have an imaginative response to the project’s theme and resources within the Archives & Special Collections. Resulting works can be produced in a variety of media including drawing, painting, photography, film and sculpture.
Deadline for participation: 14/10/2015
Deadline for submission: 26/10/2015
The exhibition will take place in Elaine Thomas Library 1 November -1 December 2015 and is scheduled to coincide with Disability History Month.
Submission:  Rebekah Taylor at (submission form attached)