The Prisoner & Andy Quilty
5 May to 10 June 2018
There are spaces where one is forced to attend to the limits of perception.
Prisoners are often talked for or about by outsiders, but rarely are they given a voice to express themselves. Banished from society, prisoners are perceived as being civilly dead without right to suggest, discuss or articulate the environment in which they live.
Being a long-term prisoner, these images are an attempt to visually portray the phenomena of being confined to an artificial environment and how isolation from the freeworld impacts on my ontological make-up. Experiencing life as an object, defined, interpreted, categorised and controlled by the interests of others, my visual process gives voice to the lived experiences that envelop my existence within the carceral boundaries of the prison estate.
One of the key deleterious effects imposed on a prisoner is a lack of freedom or movement within space which is often taken for granted in society. Movement is highly regulated and to transit from one point to another within the prescribed space of the prison requires authorisation in the form of a prisoner pass. Most prisoners are confined to their living units and cell landings for a greater proportion of the day. Over a period of time, the lack of movement, interaction with other people and objects impacts on a prisoner’s sense of place and depth perception. My lack of being in the world tends to exhaust the usually inexhaustible space experienced in society through movement. Within the carceral boundary, restricted movement limits my depth perception of being in the world and creates a vacuum where nothing has any more effective pull than anything else. This can be viewed as a ‘Ganzfeld Effect’ where objects in space flatten out to become non-descript monotonous fields of vision, effacing the distinctions that would otherwise serve as anchors or signposts for the emergence of a sense of place.
In this instance my work deals with the pseudo-identity of the prisoner wearing metaphoric masks and veils, and questions the objectification process of individuals as anti-portraits which are employed to examine prisoner’s experience when alienated and isolated in a punitive artificial environment.
The foundation of my artistic process is drawing where the repetitious sensibility of mark making is a meditative journey. No matter whatever happens to me in prison, I will always find a pen and paper to continue my process without being reliant upon or made vulnerable by the system or the decision makers within it. The repetition of daily routine and the mundane contributes to the harmful effects incarceration imposes on the prisoner. Moreover, when the deleterious effects of isolation become overwhelming prisoners can lose their sense of place in the world and become exhausted or unhinged from reality. By manipulating a digital image of one of my drawings at the pixel level I can produce hybrid prints suggestive of how prisoners are conditioned by their environments byte by byte in the form of anti-portraits.
To counter such effects it is vital for prisoners to resist the overbearing functionality of the institution by developing and maintaining relationships with the freeworld. In this context exhibiting artworks in community is one way of achieving resistance against the effects of incarceration. The liminality of the prison boundary is distinct yet transgressions across its border could be viewed as a leakage. Mesh fences and razor-wire could be observed as a sieve, metaphorically filtering all excursions into society through the porosity of the carceral boundary as ripples of resistance that permeate outwards into the very fabric of society.
As our prisons expand to reflect a warehouse function rather than a societal service, this exhibition is timely to reflect on the deleterious effects caused by isolating prisoners in harsh and hostile artificial environments for long periods of time. Highlighting how the prison environment impacts on the individual from an insider’s perspective it may also be possible to develop a broader awareness and open dialogue to alternative ways to lessen the damage caused to prisoners by the environments they are housed in. Ultimately it is advantageous to have prisoners released back to society less damaged than when they came in.