My Life in London is an exhibition of artworks by Thompson Hall and Ian Wornast, funded by Unlimited (delivered by Shape and Artsadmin). The exhibition was on display from 5-9 September as part of the Southbank’s Unlimited Festival, which celebrates the artistic vision and originality of disabled artists. Review by Dolly Sen.
My Life in London is an exhibition by Thompson Hall and Ian Wornast, two visual artists, chronicling the experiences of learning disabled people as they journey through life in the 21st Century. When I made my way down to the Spirit Level within the Royal Festival Hall, I dived into a world of vibrant colours and the wonderful geometries of their work.
Both men are artist from ActionSpace, a London-based visual arts organisation, which supports creatives with learning disabilities. ActionSpace’s aim is to make a professional career in the arts a realistic option for artists with learning disabilities who have the talent and ambition to pursue this. These two artists are overflowing with talent.
Both the artists spent six months exploring London, as well as its museums and galleries, and creating intricate art in response to this. Both artists show an eye for detail in their patterning and emotional, instinctive use of audacious and unflinching colours that represents their London.
Sometimes London can seem grey and gloomy, but these artists remind us of its vibrancy if we blow off the dust and look deeper. Wornast has an obvious love of the public transport system and brings a new fresh take on the transport network. He has turned it into the lifeblood, the arteries that pump the heart of the city. It is the thing that connects people within the city to each other.
His arresting work incorporates design and colour from Transport For London into his drawings. His work is as elaborate and complex as the underground system, and it is so elaborate, it takes you on a journey.
I had a chat with both artists. Wornast talked about the ever-changing London that his art aims to keep up with. He puts in a remarkable amount of research in his exploration of the capital’s transport system so it all interconnects and maps the city. In his painting of Battersea park the word ‘power’ is spelt in confident, bold colours lest we forget where London’s power lies.
Hall’s paintings and pastels hover with light, heart and joy, including both the cultured and the ordinary in his pictures. His piece on the British Museum, apart from its beautiful vivid colours, references the stately British Museum with the everyday paper bags of Primark. London is that and everything in between.
Of his process, Thompson has said, “I kind of have a plan in my head but it’s not really set. If I’m at home I tend to spend a bit of time thinking about what sort of images I use, or to draw. Sometimes I use colours to express feelings and emotions. I suppose it’s also to describe my personality.”
Both artists use colour as an emotional conveyance system, and you are transported as a viewer.
I am a Londoner through birth and upbringing, spending most of my life there. I moved away a couple of years ago. I have to say I miss the big smoke and Hall’s and Wornast’s work reminds me why. They have created deep-coloured, brilliant, glowing work that has distilled the energies and the flurry and furore of the city. But they also have highlighted the connection a person, a heart can have to a city.
Both of them have created magnificent, inventive, vivid maps of the city and how they see it. It a map of self and home, of a world inside and out, and I’m glad they shared it with us, and given me a second look at the map of my life to see where I can add colour.