A diverse and thought-provoking exhibition kicks off today at the Guille-Alles Library. Created by Art for Guernsey in collaboration with Clip (Creative Learning in Prison), Double Window is a showcase of 49 artworks by inmates of Les Nicolles Prison. Shaun Shackleton finds out more…
Around nine months ago we were made aware of all the forward-thinking done by Clip and wanted to team up with them,’ said Art for Guernsey’s David Ummels. ‘They were organising art groups four times a week with around 22 artists in each group, which is around a quarter of the inmates. Art for Guernsey wanted to take it to the next level so that the work can be exhibited to highlight and sell the work.’ Art for Guernsey covered all the organisational and curating costs of this project and exhibition, so it is delivered at zero cost to the community.
‘Clip is run by staff at the prison and the Tree of Knowledge at the library was built by them, so we already had a link to the Guille-Alles. We chose the name Double Window because it’s the chance for us on the outside world to see what’s going on inside the prison and it’s also an opportunity for inmates, in a visual way, to show how they feel.’
Jock Pettitt, of Art for Guernsey, explained: ‘Many of the inmates have no artistic background and the weekly sessions are a catalyst for inspiration and technical skills. One artist, who’s 60-plus, decided to do one artwork a week for the last eight months. Another had never picked up a paintbrush or created an artwork before. It’s creating an opportunity to acquire new skills which will be good for when the go back into society.’
‘It’s been a very humbling journey for us,’ said David. ‘When you are in prison you make no decisions. This way you have the means to manage personal issues. On a canvas you are totally free.’
The work will be exhibited throughout three floors of the library and, wherever possible, the subject matter will reflect the different sections, such as crime, science fiction, pets, horror. There will also be narratives to explain the work and two films about the project will be shown.
Some of the artworks have been signed but the names will be covered up to maintain anonymity. ‘We felt that it’s very important to create a non- judgemental platform to open a dialogue about incarceration and what it hopes to achieve,’ said David. ‘There will also be talks by Clip and Paul Chambers who used to be Guernsey’s restorative justice officer and who has a unique viewpoint from the side of both the offender and the victim.’