The Art House is delighted to receive a print created by Wakefield-born artist Jason Wilsher-Mills, donated by the artist to our growing collection. The piece, entitled 1995 Disability Discrimination Act, is a 6ft edition of an original 14ft banner which was displayed in the central foyer of The Art House between March–August 2018.
In light of the generous donation, and in celebration of his upcoming solo exhibition Jason and his Argonauts in Love launching Saturday 16 July at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, we caught up with Wilsher-Mills to reflect on his relationship both with The Art House and with his home city.
“John Lennon once famously said, ‘Without Elvis there would be nothing’ and I can really understand that, because ‘without Wakefield’ I would not be the artist I am. Coming from a working-class background, I am very proud of where I come from and never forget that. Wakefield is where my heart is.”
– Jason Wilsher-Mills
Wilsher-Mills creates bright, bold, and timely works that explore themes of disability, humour, and activism. Working predominantly in sculpture, augmented-reality, 3D printed work, murals, and painting, he often uses iPads to assist his practice – adapting the creative process around the physical challenges presented by his disability and allowing him to work at large scale.
The artist, now based in Lincolnshire, has always held his Wakefield roots close to his heart, stating “the city has always featured in my work”. He began working full-time on his practice in 2010 and returned to Wakefield in 2019 to create the first of his iconic inflatable sculpture works, Talking Rhubarb Totum. The work was commissioned by The Art House with funding from Wakefield Council for Index Festival, the fringe festival for Yorkshire Sculpture International.
This opportunity to experiment with inflatable sculpture marked the beginning of a journey which has seen him return to the medium on a number of occasions, translating his unmistakably vibrant drawings into inflatables. The works featured in his new exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park are amongst his most ambitious to date.
1995 Disability Discrimination Act, an iPad painting printed onto material, has been donated to The Art House as a celebration of Wilsher-Mills’ working history with us, which includes a residency in 2011 as well as his 2019 Index Festival Commission. The work commemorates The Disability Discrimination Act, introduced in 1995 in a bid to end the discrimination that many disabled people faced, and continue to face, in today’s society. This is a topic that has great personal meaning for Wilsher-Mills.
After developing chronic polyneuropathy, a neurological disease that affects the blood cells, at the age of 11, Wilsher-Mills was left paralysed from the neck down for five years. The condition, which continues to affect his mobility, lead to shift in his practice. He began using an iPad as a tool to create art as opposed to using traditional painting processes.
Reflecting on what it means for the 6ft edition of 1995 Disability Discrimination Act to take up residence in Wakefield, Wilsher-Mills said “It’s funny because the work was done some years ago, and I can see the beginnings of what I do now in it. The work also depicts many things that happened in Wakefield, such as not being able to get into the Regal Cinema in 1980, because I was a wheelchair user.”
“My old dad used to express excitement and contentment by simply saying ‘It’s Champion that’ which perfectly sums up how I feel about the banner having a home in Wakefield, at such a special venue as The Art House.”
Marking an exciting milestone in the artist’s career, his exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park will show works made in collaboration with learning-disabled groups across the country. The sculptures, including a large inflatable, use Wilsher-Mills’ clever use of bold colours and sense of joyfulness to tell accessible, engaging stories which also address topics surrounding the equalities and inequalities of human rights.
“I hope further adventures with The Art House and Wakefield continue into the future. Also, I cannot thank the brilliant team there enough for all they have done for me over the years.”
– Jason Wilsher-Mills
The Art House team would like to thank Jason for his generous donation to our collection and congratulate him on his wonderful exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. We look forward to collaborating again soon!
Jason Wilsher-Mills: Jason and his Argonauts in Love will be on display at Yorkshire Sculpture Park 16 July–4 September 2022.
1995 Disability Discrimination Act is part of The Art House Collection, currently on display in the main entrance foyer.
1. 1995 Disability Discrimination Act, original 14ft banner, The Art House. Photo by Jules Lister.
2. Talking Rhubarb Totum, 2019, The Ridings Shopping Centre. Photo by Amy Charles.
3. 1995 Disability Discrimination Act, original 14ft banner, The Art House. Photo by Jules Lister.
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