Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Subversive Activities - John Dawson & Hilary Beauchamp

John Dawson & Hilary Beauchamp
5 - 16 April 2011

NZ-born UK-based potter John Dawson teaches pottery at Holloway Women's Prison, London, working until recently with Hilary Beauchamp MBE, whose new book "Holloway Prison: an inside story", (Waterside Press, 2010) controversially caused her to resign. 

In her 30 years of teaching at the prison, Beauchamp was awarded ITV Teacher of the Year (2007), and an MBE for her work.  She is inclined to tell it like it is, and does not shy from describing the harsh realities of life inside, and the difficulties of teaching art in such circumstances.  The Prison authorities asked to see her book before it was published; to ensure the book's integrity and independence, Beauchamp chose to resign. 

In this collaborative exhibition, Dawson's finely-thrown porcelain vases and cylinders are decorated with paintings from Beauchamp's book.  They make a powerful, sometimes dark, sometimes humorous statement about the realities of life inside the infamous women's prison.  They will inevitably raise questions about the way society treats those on the wrong side of the law. 

Both Dawson and Beauchamp have used their talents to help bring a little of the joy of art and creativity to those who have very little pleasure in their lives.  In this first combined show, the very contemporary ceramics bring some of the darkness and humour from the prison environment out into the light of day, making this show admirable, intriguing, and potentially controversial.