Digital artist Jason Wilsher-Mills explains how Shape has helped him make his mark in Parliament.

Jason Wilsher Mills

It’s not every day that Shape gets invited into Parliament. However, we did indeed find ourselves wandering round Westminster Hall this week because, as of 20th January, the space is home to 18 huge, colourful banners, including work by three disabled artists - Rachel Gadsden, Paula Stevens-Hoare, and former Shape artist-in-residence Jason Wilsher-Mills. 

The exhibition, entitled ‘The Beginnings of that Freedome’, will be on show until 30th November 2015 - details of how you can visit are available here. The banners form part of Parliament in the Making, a series of events commemorating 800 years since the sealing of the Magna Carta and 750 years since the De Montfort parliament (find more historical background here). Nine artists were commissioned through The Speaker’s Art Fund to create the artworks, each depicting a historical act or event that helped form democracy as we know it today.

The #Parliament2015 programme intends to “continue the journey by providing new and modern ways for the public to engage with their democracy,” the Speaker, Rt Hon John Bercow MP, has said. Nowhere is this more evident than in the banners Wilsher-Mills was commissioned to produce on the 1834 Tolpuddle Martyrs (a group of peaceful campaigners who were transported to Australia) and the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act. Although their subjects may be historical, the issues they raise are still very much relevant - just two weeks earlier, demonstrators were gathered outside Westminster to protest against the closure of the Independent Living Fund.

Wilsher-Mills is a UK-based digital and iPad artist who has recently been involved with several major community and public arts projects, as well as working with Shape on numerous occasions. The opportunity to apply for the Parliament commission arose whilst Wilsher-Mills was completing a residency at Shape’s Westfield gallery. In fact, he explains, “I feel that the residency with Shape gave me the confidence and the skills needed to be in the position to even be considered for the commission.”

Working on the banners between September and December 2014 was “a difficult process,” he continues, “as I was working under some very strict guidance at Parliament. As artists, we are masters of our own universe, and we create without having to justify everything we do, as the act of creation is a private one.”Jason Wilsher-Mills The Tolpuddle Martyrs

However, “even though at the beginning of the process I felt a little bit affronted that my artistic vision was being tested, this soon changed, and I have to ultimately admit that in these two banners I think I have created two of the most original pieces of art I have ever produced."

“I cannot express my gratitude to the team at Shape Arts, who have worked tirelessly on my behalf, and who have had the vision to offer me opportunities which have enabled me to continue in my upward spiral as a professional artist.” 

Find out more about Jason Wilsher-Mills’ work here. | #Parliament2015

Top image: Jason Wilsher-Mills '1995 Disability Discrimination Act'
Bottom image: Jason Wilsher-Mills '1834 Tolpuddle Martyrs'
Banner image: 'The Beginnings of that Freedome' exhibition
All images courtesy of Parliament UK

Parliament 2015 logo