Wouter Van De Koot - The Good Life
About the Exhibition

This year's Shape Open exhibition questions how we perceive disability, using painting, audio, textile, and even a mask made of meat to look beyond that which is visible.

Currently in its third year, Shape Open is an annual call-out for both disabled and non-disabled artists to submit work of any medium in response to a disability-focused theme - this year, '[in]visible'.

Exhibiting artists are selected by a panel of arts industry judges, with the artist who produces the most exceptional work winning a £1000 cash prize.

Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA), internationally renowned artist and Shape Open patron, said: "The Shape Open provides a fantastic platform for disabled artists to show their work. Such exhibitions offer great opportunities for artists to be discovered by institutions and larger audiences."

As well as offering alternative perspectives on disability, the competition and showcase have helped many disabled artists to further their careers, opening doors to funders and further exhibition opportunities. Previous open artists have gone on to exhibit at Southbank Centre, The Victoria and Albert museum and more.

Image: 'The Good Life 5' Wouter van de Koot
Banner image: Shape Open 2014 private view. Photo by Andy Barker


The Shape Open 2014

A full colour catalogue of the exhibition is available here

If you would like to receive a copy in an alternative format please do not hesitate to get in contact.

Telephone: 0207 424 7330   Email: exhibitions@shapearts.org.uk

Text only entries are below:

Claire Butler

A Response to Anxiety


Wax, fibre glass resin

W: 60cm x H: 140cm x D: 60CM

This piece is my personal response to anxiety. Anxiety can make you feel like an angry and frustrated child. I am reflecting upon anxiety in order to push through it, and the piece is to serve symbolically as a metaphor for breaking away from anxious emotions.


Radoslav Daskalov

Systematic Desensitisation 3


Silver-gelatin photographic print

W: 43cm x H: 54cm

‘Systematic Desensitisation’ is a personal photographic project exploring my combat with anxiety and panic attacks, by using a technique with the same name from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I make myself go outside at least once a day and take a self-portrait with a 5x4 camera. Each photograph is made up of seven separate exposures, one for every day of the week. This project is both my way of overcoming my limitations, and a certain "coming out" to the world. Up until its creation, only my family and closest friends were familiar with this issue


Federico Gallo



Wax, pigment on collage

W: 20cm x H: 30cm

Masks is a wall installation: a number of portraits exploring the discrepancy between the inner and social self. They use drawing and collage on style magazine pages to reveal what is not often easily recognisable or diagnosable. Psychological and emotional disorders are, in fact, invisible.


Jane Gauntlett

In My Shoes: Waking in Slough

2014 (updated edition)


Duration: 10:51

This work presents the beautiful, challenging, surreal and mundane aspects of living with an invisible disability (brain injury, epilepsy) from a first-person perspective. It illustrates the impact this has on my senses, the fear and the calm which accompany such experiences, and the trust I have in the kindness of strangers. To me, epilepsy is an unruly beast. The invisible hurdles (communication struggles, confusion, post-seizure expeditions) are often more challenging than the visible nature of grand mal seizures. I am keen to use what I make to raise awareness, inspire empathy, and initiate dialogue about invisible disability, diversity and human rights.


Benjamin Gooch

John the builder


Oil on canvas

W: 71cm x H: 86cm

I'm fed up with the representation of people with mental health issues with either their 'head in their hands', or dismissed as 'dysfunctional outsiders'. I used oil painting techniques which are conventionally used to celebrate people of power and influence (be that social, religious cultural or political) to paint John, a member of Core Arts, which is a hub for artists who have severe and enduring mental health issues. People with mental health diagnoses have often led hard lives, and the history of these lives is etched onto their faces. My painting pays tribute to survival against the odds, strength and vulnerability.


Abigail Harris

Entomology Series


Digitally manipulated photography on watercolour paper

W: 42cm x H: 59cm

Through experimental photography and digital manipulation, motions that are imperceptible to the human eye unveil hidden, frozen moments, and thus transform the invisible into the visible. This series is a visual representation that explores the metamorphosis of concealed qualities and investigates the notion of the unseen.


Jack Haslam

Label me Jack (just another animal)


Digital print

W: 50cm x H: 70cm

I love animals. I prefer their company to humans. When I am with them I don't have to talk or listen. My Aspergers makes it difficult for me to follow the thread of conversation in a social situation - I am usually preoccupied with trying to work out which animal the person reminds me of. This can make me look distracted; people wait for my responses, then they realise things are not what they seem and forget about involving me. I become invisible, but I am relieved. My label helps me show my work as I find it too difficult to talk about it.


Stephen Lee Hodgkins




Duration: 02:30

Bodeelanwigch explores how the idea of dyslexia is both hidden and revealed by literacy norms. It is presented as an audio visual poem, the original text of which was written by disability activist and artist Simon Brisenden. This piece imagines the possibility of neurodiverse language structure and utterance. The strict imposition of literacy norms in society, especially in an education psychology setting, often work to make diverse language use seem dysfunctional and requiring correction. Bodeelanwigch is a celebration of diverse language use, and actively resists those 'literacy norms’ that have been used to make dyslexia visible as a dysfunctional, rather than valid, reality.  


Stephen Lee Hodgkins

'...so I do the hand thing...'


Digital photograph

W: 70cm x H: 100cm

This photo is of the hands of poet and community activist Barbara Stewart. Barbara recalls numerous experiences of engaging in conversations with people who, when seeing her hands, say 'oooh I didn’t know you were disabled'. She recalls that when people make negative statements about disabled people, she says 'so I do the hand thing', holding up her hands and revealing herself as a disabled person. Barbara keeps a large image of her hands in the office where she works supporting other disabled people, and encourages discussion about the representation of disabled people with those who visit her.

Lucy Hutson

Long Johns


Cardboard, marker pen, cable ties, cotton polyester mix fabric

W: 50cm x H: 123cm

I want to put things back to the way I think they would rather be. I want to acknowledge unseen moments and the invisible connections between things.


Aurora Ira




W: 20cm x H: 30cm

In FEELING HAPPY SUPERHERO the mask is made of hand-sewed meat, and influenced by the emoji smiley, which is often used as a representation of a person's emotional or mental state.

We are not prepared to see Superhero as one of us, to witness his hesitation and fear, to share his loneliness, to face his weakness. Superhero must have no cracks, and we will not compromise this idea. We have no mercy. We will keep our eyes, ears and hearts sealed, until we kill Superhero. Then, we will take some photos of the body, and share it with “friends”.


Carly Jayne




W: 15cm x H: 15cm

These works attempt to address the common misconceptions that the general public have about disabled people.


Carly Jayne



Stainless steel, fabric, rubber

W: 100cm x H: 100cm x D: 100cm

These works attempt to address the common misconceptions that the general public have about disabled people.  




Laura Genevieve Jones




Duration: 02:33

I began making this work in 2009, when I was suffering from two invisible chronic diseases. The time it took for me to finish the work says something in itself of how physical impairment affects one's life. Disconnection, invisibility, the illusion of domestic bliss and isolation are all present in this work. There is a sense of being imprisoned by illness or physical impairment without any clear escape. The effect on your emotional state - the anxiety, fear and frustration - is as debilitating. SHEEET draws on the patterns, textures and rhythms of everyday life - a serendipitous moment when what you see reflects what you feel.

Ann Kelson



Textile, latex, metal

W: 52cm x H: 96cm x D: 5cm

My recent body of work has been focused on the damage caused both physically and emotionally when my husband suffered a spinal cord injury. This work has been dominated by the emotional and therefore more hidden damage of the trauma. I was largely working in an instinctive way, wanting to convey a dark sense of uncomfortable, medical confinement. I used a variety of textiles and fastenings to build these strange, sagging bags, each one constructed to exactly fit and support my husbands distorted back. Displayed as a series of up to

individual pieces, they become more distorted and misshapen as the series progresses.

Wouter van de Koot

The Good Life 5


Watercolour on paper

W: 56cm x H: 76cm

In my work I like to use the so called 'negative space' to shape my characters. It is the absence of an element that maps its presence. It is part of the narrative. My work usually deals with personal fears and fantasies. It often adresses themes such as losing or gaining control over oneself or others.


Philip Larry

This is my body, given to you


Oil on abattoir tile

W: 12cm x H: 25cm

First Holy Communion is the receiving of the Eucharist and a form of purification of the soul. In some ways, Catholicism reformatted pagan practice of cannibalism and human sacrifice by encouraging the ingesting of imitation flesh and blood. The young people, who undertake this ritual, crave family acceptance and a place amongst a religious group, whose beliefs they can hardly comprehend. Like lambs to the slaughter.



Tracy Leech-Williams

Nebulous II


Pierced paper

W: 40cm x H: 40cm

This work deals with undefined and invisible borders, specifically those boundaries surrounding our very existence. These ambiguous borders are becoming more ambivalent with scientific interventions. This drawing represents the four cell stage of human cell division. At this early stage the prognosis for future disease or disability is as yet unknown, undetectable, invisible. It is not until the eight cell stage that genetic profiling can commence. Stored within the scientific confines of the laboratory, these enigmatic forms are invisible without magnification. By representing the unseen through images which are questioning the undefined, the overall effect becomes ambiguous.

Dene Leigh

(French) Rico In The Middle


Pinewood, velvet, pencil, acetate and inkjet prints

W: 37cm x H: 43cm

My practice confronts stroke - a medical condition becoming widespread. I attempt to imagine the life of stroke victims, drawing particular emphasis on my grandfather, who, after being diagnosed with a severe stroke, lived the rest of his life with a range of neurologiucal impairments. These affected his facial recognition skills, his ability to identify objects and both his written and spoken language. In (French) Rico in The Middle, three obscured figures stand in front of the viewer. This artwork is part of a series of process-based collages with an emphasis on not being able to see physiognomies, thus not permitting the viewer to identify the fragmented individuals.

Aaron McPeake

Untitled #174_7434


Digital print

W: 30cm x H: 22.5cm

For many, shadows best represent the language of the visual world.



Ben Jack Nash

[ ]~ No. 8 (vi)


Resin on polystyrene board

Dimensions variable

The artwork centres around a typical household door - an everyday object which both physically and symbolically allows access between places for some, but might also prevent or even forbid it for others. This door has no means of being opened, closed or locked. It appears integrated and fading, simultaneously coming into being and emerging from obscurity. A closer look shows that it is in fact a negative imprint of a door’s surface. This raises the question over whether being seen or being invisible is a positive or negative experience, empowering or demeaning.



Amy Louise Nettleton



Concrete, Victorian taxidermied wader bird

W: 30cm x H: 50cm x D: 30cm

My instinctive understanding of process, surface and minimalism results in beautifully crafted two and three-dimensional works, which explore often challenging themes surrounding the failure of the human condition. These recurring themes of fragility, the ephemeral, life/death and potential, attempt to confront the viewer in the subtlest of ways. I work on the edge of a complex interplay between aesthetic, materiality and concept. This piece explores my personal experience of disability, but also the universal experience of feelings of being trapped, held back or restrained by a force outside of your control.

Matthias Neumann

poesia domestica - dining room


Acrylic on digital c-print

W: 30cm x H: 30cm

Invited by the Danish art collective WooLoo to participate at Manifesta 8 in Murcia, Spain, ‘Poesia Domestica’ was conceived as an installation and performance exploring how the process, perception and use of architectural environments is altered by eliminating the visual element. “Poesia Domestica” became a permanent installation as part of a four month exhibition at the National Museum for Contemporary Art in Bucharest, Romania. A large four-room installation was realised as a complete dark domestic interior. As part of this work, a series of embossed black-on-black drawings and prints were created that are accessible by touch.

Landon Peck



Cast glass

W: 11cm x H: 6cm x D: 24cm

CAST SYSTEM is a play on ‘caste system’, a Hindu social stratification whereby the population is divided into ranks by birth and heritage. The title is also a reference to the glass-casting technique used in the making of this piece, which has been left unfinished with its imperfections. As an HIV positive gay man, there have been moments in my life when I have felt ‘less’ than human. Today I accept that we are not defined by our ‘faults’ and ‘misfortune’, but by how we accept and live with them.


Ceridwen Powell

Skin Deep


Acrylic on canvas

W: 51cm x H: 41cm

My mental health issues may be invisible, but my scars from self-harming are visible. This piece is about how support isn't always available to help you feel better, so self-harming is the only option to survive. When my scars are visible I see people staring at them, and some people comment. I'm proud of the scars and see them as beautiful and a badge of courage, a sign that I've survived terrible distress and a system that can let you down when you most need it.


Thom Rees

(Untitled) Birch ply and iroko


Birch ply and iroko

W: 100cm x H: 68cm x D: 11cm

My practice predominantly focuses on the observational study of the space around us, specifically the materialistic and physiological methods that we use to structure our lives within a social and material space. My main concerns explore the processes used to build our lives but which are often overlooked, or taken for granted. I use them to present the viewer with structural, formal and spatial gestures ranging from the familiar to the ambiguous.


Dolly Sen

You Are Here


Digital Print

W: 59cm x H: 84cm

‘You are Here’ relates to the theme of Invisibility in a number of ways. On a personal level, it is what psychosis feels like, the mind all over the place, lost and invisible to the self. As a ‘mad’ person I feel there is no place for me in society - being told where I am but having no place to call my own. Told what I am and where to be, but I am nowhere to be found.



Ellis Sharpe

Yellow Painting



Duration: 02.23

I have developed a premise for creating interactive, audio-descriptive paintings that do not exist in physical space. Painting functions as much in our imagination as it does in our sight. However, the ‘viewers’ experience of my paintings does not begin with listening and end with the visual information that is narrated to them. There is often an action which the listener is encouraged to perform in order to fully engage with the work. The participatory aspects of my paintings enable the audience to reflect upon their free will through personal experience, diminishing the gap between artist, viewer and subject.


Rachael Smith

Remote annexation


Earthenware, acrylic, wood, cotton

W: 46cm x H: 62cm x D: 6cm

‘Remote annexation’ is about feeling invisible, in solitude, in pain, restricted, isolated and unaware of other people in similar positions. This is before any clarity, acceptance or support which can come with diagnosis and visibility, unable to see beyond the pain and restriction of sudden disability from extreme activity to non-activity. From community and connections to non-connectivity, inability to move, see, transform. Frozen in time and space, a chrysalis, invisible even to one’s self and own journey - bodily invasion, taken over, forcibly in battle, being ruled unwantedly by another state of being.

Maryam Tafakory

I was five when I became a woman



Duration: 05:00

Hiding disability isn't a new concept. Girls who are the victims of FGM may not be aware of their disability themselves, and if they are, they prefer to hide it until they are unable to...


Mark Tamer

Self Portrait - A glitch in the system


Digitally altered photograph on photo rag paper

W: 50cm x H: 50cm

I have taken an image - a self portrait - and deliberately corrupted its digital code; removing, adding and moving it around to generate a new image. This new version is broken, pieces are missing, the person is becoming invisible. For me it’s all below the surface - I look ‘normal’ but there are bits of me that are corrupted. Messing with the invisible digital DNA of a photographic image seemed a perfect way to make this visible.




Katie Tindle

Breathe in and hold your breath. You may now breathe normally.


C-type print

W: 40cm x H: 100cm

Last year, at the age of 21, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease. A growth around 8x6cm was discovered in my chest after having a CT scan. This image was captured on a flatbed scanner, mimicking the experience of continuous PET and CT scans, but conveying a sense of futility. The growth is still there, although essentially dead, but there is no way for me to visually access it myself. Being denied insight into my own body was a particularly difficult part of my diagnosis. This image conveys the fractured sensations of someone not in control of their physiology.


Andrea Vincentini

Disallineamenti #1


Pigment digital print on paper, mounted on aluminium composite panel

W: 52cm x H: 72cm

Presence of mismatches between the person and personality.




Terence Walton

The Family Tree


Pencil on paper

W: 53cm x H: 73cm

Disabilities such as colour blindness is a common hereditary condition: The Family Tree .



Andy Wild

Kev Does a Runner


Pen on card

W: 33cm x H: 45cm

I have a brain tumour and to the outside world I appear ‘normal’, but when you are diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, some people don’t know how to deal with it. I had known my friend Kev for 10 years. I climbed a lot with him, our families ate together, met together, he came on holiday with us, but after I told him about my diagnosis he started to disappear. Maybe he couldn’t deal with being close to death; I’ll never know.

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