Jason Wilsher-Mills: Adam Reynolds Award 2020
In this time when life has changed so much and we are so frightened and unsure about the future, it seemed to be the right time to reflect on the most amazing and positive thing that has ever happened to me, being awarded the Adam Reynolds Award 2020.
To give some context as to why this award has been so important I want to give a very shortened version of my artistic biography.
I trained as a traditional oil painter, doing my degree at Cardiff in the early 1990s, and then went into teaching and then management. I thought I had ‘missed the boat’ of being an artist, as I had been caught up in the mainstream of focussing my ambitions on going up the educational management ladder. Then in 2004 my life changed when I became disabled.
Unable to continue working, it was at this time that I had what I call my ‘Hagrid moment’ when an artist friend pointed out, quite vehemently, that I did not have to be a manager to make a living, and that I should do the thing I was trained to do….in other words ’You are an artist Jason!’
I was in a bad way so decided to be an early adopter of technology, as it was the only way I could effectively create art, because of my disability.
My life changed very quickly, as the art was just pouring out of me into the iPad. Within months I was showing my work in America.
It was at this time, right at the beginning of my career as an artist, that I first became aware of SHAPE Arts, and they were there for me, right at the beginning, and have been ‘there’ for me ever since. From showing my first piece of art in the SHAPE open in 2011 to having the amazing opportunity to create work for the Museum of Islamic Art, in Doha, Qatar.
They have been there for me in the good times, and also when I needed advice, help and support in the ‘not so good’ times.
Simply put I cannot thank them enough for their support.
Being the Adam Reynolds Awardee is the biggest thing that has ever happened to me, and even with the fear and disruption that COVI-19 has caused, it is the thing that keeps me going, because throughout the lockdown I am making art for the Folkestone Triennial 2020 (which will now take place in 2021) as part of the Adam Reynolds Award.
It is ironic that the art I am creating, for this commission, records my life as a disabled person, as an artist, and serves as a tribute to SHAPE Arts.
Jason Wilsher-Mills: Jason & the Argonauts Garden Exhibition 2020’
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent lockdown, which caused me to have to self-isolate, I was unable to exhibit my work in a traditional manner, so decided to make films about my inflatable sculptures.
This caused a great deal of interest, with BBC Look North, ZDF Germany and Duetsche Welle coming to my home exhibition and filming it. These were then broadcast to an international audience. See link to film featured on ZDF’s ‘Heute in Europa’ https://www.zdf.de/nachrichten/heute-in-europa/garten-statt-in-der-galerie-100.html?fbclid=IwAR0Z6gWni-Iuq1eDuauBOtvceW0HbQRXk-CG1W2-FDWXg8WYDmnwqJSa4_A
Jason Wilsher-Mills: Jason & the Argonauts
In the Summer of 2019 I exhibited the 2 Corby Totems, Brave Boy Billy sculpture at the prestigious Peoples History Museum, in Manchester.
Jason Wilsher-Mills: Talking Rhubarb Totem - Yorkshire Sculpture Festival 2019
The ‘Talking Rhubarb Totem’ was an interactive inflatable sculpture, which I created with the group, Wakefield Sight, as part of the Index Festival, under the umbrella of the Yorkshire Sculpture Festival in 2019.
I worked with the sight loss group and interviewed them over a period of time, with the audio files being part of the ‘Rhubarb’ experience. The sculpture even had the scent of rhubarb, which represents the region's major export.
The sculpture was designed based on a 30-year-old sketch I made when I was an art student at Wakefield College, studying in Foundation Art & Design.
The sculpture was commissioned by Wakefield Art House.
Jason Wilsher-Mills: Tolpuddle Martyrs Remixed - Shire Hall Courthouse Museum - 2019
’Tolpuddle Martyrs Remixed’ is a commission created for Shire Hall Courthouse Museum, in Dorchester, Dorset, which is a museum that commemorates the story of the 6 Tolpuddle Martyrs, who were transported to Australia in the early 1800s, because of forming a trade union — or at least a proto trade union. I had originally created a banner about the Tolpuddle Martyrs for the Houses of Parliament in 2015, and felt there was much more of the story to tell.
As the son of a coal miner, from Yorkshire, their story always appealed to me, so wanted to find out more about them. In 2018 I was commissioned by Shire Hall to create 6 new pieces, which would go into more detail, with each piece focussing on one of the martyrs. I decided to create 6 Lightbox installations with each having an augmented reality experience attached to it. I recorded the descendants of the martyrs and included this into the groundbreaking augmented reality.
The work will be shown once again in August 2020 at Shire Hall Court House Museum
Jason Wilsher-Mills: Unexpected engagement - - 20-21 Visual Arts Centre - 2018
Jason was commissioned to create new work to be shown alongside the renowned artist, Grayson Perry. He created special wallpaper and flooring, which featured a range of characters which Jason had developed, so that he could tell the stories of those in the disabled communities, who presently do not have a voice.
The exhibition runs from June-October 2018
Jason Wilsher-Mills: Unexpected engagement - - Artlink Hull - 2017
Jason was appointed as Squarepeg Artlink Hull Artist in Resident throughout the period of Hull 2017 City of Culture. He worked with the homeless, and adults with learning disability groups, creating work based on the artwork they produced and the stories they told him.
The residency culminated in an exhibition of the work produced in January 2018.
3D Printing: The Good, The Bad & The Beautiful
National Centre for Craft & Design - 2017
Jason was chosen to be part of an innovative exhibition at the National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford, Lincolnshire that examined the both the incredible aesthetic and functional qualities that 3D printing can produce, as well asking what the potential pitfalls of this relatively new technology are.
Working with a local 3D digital modeller Jason Hutchinson, Jason has created a number of 3D sculptures of characters such as the Caliper Kid which feature in his 2D paintings.
Calliper Kid Head & Hand
3D Print of DDA Banner Detail
3D Printed Calliper Kid
Gladys the Spinal Brace Beauty
Calliper Kid Hand - 3D Print
Museum of Islamic Art – Doha, Qatar Mar 2015
In 2015 Jason was chosen as one of five international and two Qatari artists to be a part of this exhibition at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Doha, Qatar.
The artists were commissioned to create work inspired by the collections in MIA and the resulting work was displayed alongside the Definitely Able conference which explored issues of disability and equal access to arts and culture in the Middle East.
See a report about Jason's involvement by BBC Look North below:
Portrait of a Western Gentleman Looking East
Jason at Museum of Islamic Art Qatar
UCL / James Dyson Foundation Summer School - 2017
In the summer of 2017 summer, Jason was artist in residence, working with students at the James Dyson Summer School at UCL, helping them redesign the wheelchair. The image on the left is the resulting light-box artwork.
Jubilee sailing Trust and Barclays
Barclays and jubilee Sailing Trust commission
Barclays and Jubilee Sailing Trust commision - 2017
Jason was chosen to act as artist in residence sponsored by Barclays, on a Jubilee Sailing Trust Tall Ship, The Lord Nelson.
Jason set sail from Sunderland on 11th April and arrived a few days later in Newcastle.
"I am very proud to be asked to do this. It's a huge honour to be asked to make art on the high seas on a fully accessible tall ship."
The image to the left shows the unveiling of the resulting artwork onboard the Lord Nelson ship.
The Tolpuddle Martyrs & 1995 DDA Banner
The Houses of Parliament - 2015
Jason was chosen to create two pieces of art, along with eight other artists, on the major points in the country's history, since the introduction of Magna Carta, 750 years ago. The themes Jason was given for the project were the 1834 Tolpuddle Martyrs and the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act.
The banners produced through this project were both displayed in the Houses of Parliament and have since been gifted to Shire Hall Museum, Dorset.
Listen Jason talk about this project below:
Jason and the 1995 DDA banner
Jason & the Tolpuddle Martyrs banner
Detail of the 1995 DDA banner
Jason & the Tolpuddle Martyrs banner